With the first ever district, municipal and provincial council elections approaching, the Sam Rainsy Party has been having its commune councilors take allegiance oaths promising deadly divine retribution and property destruction upon those who don’t vote SRP in the May poll.
Forty-six SRP commune councilors took the oath Thursday in Phnom Penh, the last among the city’s 266 SRP commune councilors to do so. Party officials said the oath will be taken by councilors nationwide. Only commune councilors are eligible to vote in the May election.
SRP lawmaker for Phnom Penh Ho Vann who organized the oath ceremonies in the capital said that the opposition party held the ceremony in an effort to prevent the ruling CPP from buying votes from the commune councilors.
“We are doing this measure because we want to see their pure heart. Just like a couple before their wedding they must do the blood test [for disease],” he said.
The oath recited by the SRP commune councilors reads, “We promise to vote for the Sam Rainsy Party in the council election. We are committed that we will not be convinced [to do otherwise]. We won’t receive bribes from anyone who wants to buy us to vote for another political party besides the Sam Rainsy Party. I promise that if I don’t honor my oath […] may the Theravada and sacred objects harm me to death soon. If I am still alive may my harmony and wealth be destroyed.”
Ho Vann said that he received information that CPP officials have been trying to buy off SRP commune councilors through former SRP officials who have already defected to the CPP.
“So far I haven’t seen anyone sell out. We will remove them if they sell out because they will no longer be our party’s members,” he said. “It is obvious that they are planning to buy SRP commune councilors,” he added.
SRP lawmaker and party spokesman Yim Sovann said councilors are not required to take the oath, but “normally, defectors won’t take the oath, they will leave the party.”
He insisted that the oath was not undemocratic even though it demands that the individuals vote a certain way.
“Democrats are transparent, they are not afraid of taking the oath,” he said. “We are demonstrating our unity, we are building confidence which leads to a stronger party, we have built trust,” he added.
Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith denied that the CPP had any plans to buy the votes of SRP councilors and condemned opposition oath ceremonies.
“It is wrong to have commune councilors take an oath,” he said, adding that voters elected the SRP commune councilors, so those councilors should be allowed to make their own decisions.
“Sam Rainsy doesn’t trust his commune councilors, I imagine that they will lose more votes,” he said.
However, the policy of demanding loyalty oaths from party members is one long practiced by the ruling party. CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap on Thursday said that the SRP was merely copying what his party has done for ages.
“The SRP has learned from the CPP when the CPP has received many supporters,” Cheam Yeap said. He added, however, that the CPP oath “only [has] phrases that if they are not loyal, their properties will be destroyed; we don’t say they will be killed.”
Yim Sovann said that the SRP is not imitating the ruling party.
“The CPP forces people to vote for the party,” he said. “We don’t need to learn from the CPP. The Sam Rainsy Party is different; we ask our members to vote for the party.”
(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)