An election official said Wednesday that a consignment of “anti-election” T-shirts seized by police in Banteay Meanchey province on Monday were commissioned by a dissident Khmer-American group that the government has labeled a terrorist organization.
Im Phearun, 26, Sourn Serey Bunlong, 28, and Seng Sok Meng, 30, were all arrested on Monday for attempting to transport the 109 T-shirts as well as 341 watches, 88 C.D.s and 25 radios into Thailand and have since been sent to the provincial court, said Hey Kimseng, who heads the provincial election committee.
He said all the items bore the logo of the U.S.-based Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM) and that the T-shirts also called for a boycott of the July 28 national election sporting the slogan: “Our Cambodian people unite and use people power to oppose the cosmetic elections that are not free and fair.”
“The three men are local residents in Banteay Meanchey province who have the bad intention to disrupt the elections and broke the election law,” he said.
The country’s law on National Assembly elections allows the National Election Committee to fine anyone who “disrupts the polling process” or “disturbs the polling.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly accused the KPPM of plotting to topple the government but never provided any evidence. Its website calls for a change in leadership but does not advocate violence or undemocratic means.
Siem Reap Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Chuon Sophana said police had also raided a Siem Reap City shop where the T-shirts were suspected to have been printed, the Cambodia T-shirt Printing House, and detained two of its employees for questioning.
He declined to say what the shop or the suspects had done wrong, but added that police were searching other shops also suspected of printing the anti-election T-shirts.
“More than 500 T-shirts calling for the boycott of the elections were sent out before the raid,” he said. “The national police are investigating to find out whether there are more printing houses in other provinces that have been producing the anti-election T-shirts.”
Lieutenant General Sok Phal, a national police deputy commissioner, referred questions to spokesman Kirth Chantharith, who could not be reached.
Provincial police chief Soath Nordy declined to comment.
On Tuesday, the head of the independent Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, Koul Panha, said the T-shirts should not constitute a breach of the law because they were merely expressing an opinion.