The owner of popular radio station ABC, who on Tuesday and Wednesday warned on air of a military coup if the opposition wins Sunday’s national election, on Thursday took his morning talk show off air in what he described as a “strike” against calls from authorities to cease his controversial broadcasts.
Seng Bunveng, who founded ABC Radio in 2008 and goes by the pseudonym “Aja A,” said Tuesday that the military would oust the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) if they won the ballot, and on Wednesday he warned that “blood will flow through the streets” if the opposition wins.
“We are going on strike first before they order us to shut down our radio station,” Mr. Bunveng said in a brief statement early Thursday morning, after which ABC Radio ceased broadcasting commentary and played only music.
The move came after National Election Committee (NEC) President Im Sousdey released a statement Wednesday night calling on Mr. Bunveng to stop warning of a military coup.
“ABC Radio has violated the order and procedures of the parliamentary election of the 5th mandate,” Mr. Sousdey said in the statement. “NEC officials contacted ABC Radio, but it is still broadcasting.”
“The NEC is warning ABC FM 107.5 MHz to immediately stop broadcasting any information that frightens voters. If ABC Radio continues, the NEC will ask the Ministry of Information to stop the broadcasting for a while,” it adds.
A spokesperson for ABC Radio who identified himself only as Robert said Thursday evening that Mr. Bunveng was now on his way to Thailand.
“Maybe he will comment again after the election,” he said, declining to elaborate.
CNRP spokesman Son Chhay said Thursday that the Ministry of Information and NEC should act more quickly to deal with such violations.
“When you talk about a military-organized coup, this is a threat to the nation,” he said. “Imagine if the opposition would do something similar—there has been two or three times the Beehive Radio station has been closed immediately.”
Beehive Radio is owned by prominent government critic Mam Sonando, who was released from prison in March after serving eight months of a 20-year prison sentence that was widely considered politically motivated. Mr. Sonando was found guilty of having provided moral support, through his comments, to a so-called secessionist movement.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan on Thursday dismissed the comparison.
“That was in the past. Don’t live in the past. Cambodia develops very quickly from day to day,” he said.
National police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said that the police would move quickly if it was proven that Mr. Bunveng had violated election laws.
“If he violated the election law, the NEC will act according to the procedures of the law,” he said. “They can send it to the courts, and then the police can act. If he violated the law, the police will act.”
On Wednesday, civil society groups and the CNRP urged the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) high command to release a statement reassuring the public that they would respect Sunday’s election results so that voters could exercise their electoral choices without fear.
Mr. Siphan claimed that the RCAF had drafted copy of a statement asserting its political independence, but that he was not authorized to release it to the public.