A group of about 40 opposition activists were prevented from driving around Siem Reap City on Saturday morning in an effort to encourage locals to register to vote in next year’s commune council elections.
Equipped with a set of speakers atop a pickup truck, the group had set out on about 30 motorbikes with plans to visit four markets in the city. But when they reached Samaki market in Slakram commune at about 10:30 a.m., they were met by authorities who told them the rally was over.
“When we asked them, they didn’t have permission and so we had to stop them because we are strengthening the rule of law in Cambodia,” said Siem Reap City governor So Platong.
While he conceded that the group was clearly working to encourage people to get to their local commune office to register to vote, he said they had failed to inform authorities of their plans.
“We welcome such participation from political parties, associates and journalists in line with the appeal from the National Election Committee [NEC],” Mr. Platong said.
“We would not have banned them, but they seemed not to respect authorities,” he added. “Their activities caused traffic jams, and public order on the streets is our responsibility.”
He said local authorities had already done plenty to inform the public about the voter registration period, which runs from September through November, including hand-delivering invitations, putting posters along the street and posting messages on Facebook.
Sum Sarath, head of the CNRP’s executive committee in Siem Reap City, said authorities had no reason to stop their activists.
“What we did was based on the instructions from the NEC, which does not clearly state that there is a need to request permission from the city governor,” he said, adding that the group had filed a complaint with the Slakram commune chief over the confrontation.
“If the decision is that we were wrong, we will file a complaint with the NEC again at the national level,” he said.