Government Calls for Arrests Over CNRP Poll Data Document

The Council of Ministers on Wednesday called for the arrest of unnamed political party operatives who are accused of distributing “false documents” appearing to show voter sentiment ahead of the July 28 national election, the source of which was attributed to the International Republican Institute (IRI).

In its statement, the Council accuses unspecified “bad people who are activists and campaigners for one party” of falsifying survey data gathered by the Washington-based IRI ahead of the election.

The statement does not say who was distributing the data nor what the data showed, but claims that it could “cause social chaos.”

“First, all authorities must investigate to find and immediately arrest all people who made the false documents and the people who used these false documents in order to send them to the court and punish them by the law,” the statement says.

“Second, we appeal to anyone who was involved in producing this false document to confess and the government will give a reward.”

Officials at the Council of Ministers referred all questions to Keo Remy, vice president of the Council’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit, who could not be reached for comment.

Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said authorities had no suspects yet. “Now we are investigating to find and arrest the bad people,” he said. “If we see any people carrying those documents to distribute, we will arrest them immediately.”

Lt. Gen. Sopheak said he did not know which party was responsible but insisted it was not the ruling CPP.

A copy of the offending documents, obtained Wednesday, shows a chart labeled “the intention of vote.”

For each province the document has a column for vote totals labeled “very likely,” “somewhat” and “very unlikely” in English and a percentage for each likely vote outcome. Above the columns, handwritten in Khmer, are the names of the “Cambodia National Rescue Party [CNRP],” “Undecided” and “Cambodian People’s Party [CPP].”

On another page, a chart claiming to present unspecified survey data shows the CNRP with 54 percent of voter support compared to the CPP’s 46 percent. It also shows the CNRP winning 64 of the National Assembly’s 123 seats to the CPP’s 59.

The CPP currently holds 90 of the Assembly’s parliamentary seats and is widely expected to maintain a large majority after the July 28 election.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann admitted Wednesday that his party was using the documents in question, and he defended his party’s rights to interpret data he claimed it obtained from IRI as it saw fit. “The CPP interprets the information from the IRI, so why not us?” he said. “We can interpret in many ways, this is our freedom of analysis,” he added.

“We show the page given to us by IRI and we ask the [CNRP] grassroots leaders to come and see” the document. Local party officials are also expected to share the CNRP’s interpretation of the IRI data with prospective voters, he said.

Mr. Sovann also said the government’s call for the arrest of those distributing the data was “ridiculous” and something that would never happen in a true democracy.

IRI released survey results in May suggesting that 79 percent of Cam­bo­dians believed the country was headed in the right direction. Soon afterward, the CPP and CNRP cited unpublished data, which they also attributed to IRI but offered conflicting numbers. The CPP said the data gave them the edge in the election. The CNRP said the numbers showed most voters support them.

IRI’s Jessica Keegan declined to comment on any data her group sent to the parties privately. “I cannot comment on IRI’s internal data, but the parties received information to help guide their platform development and messaging,” she said.

“The data has been misinterpreted by parties on several occasions. Under the universal principle of democracy and freedom of expression we obviously don’t believe that anyone should be arrested for misinterpreting polling data.”

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