The government has accused opposition politicians of falsifying a statement in the name of the Constitutional Council dean that claimed intimidation from top officials forced him to flee Cambodia.
“[The government] categorically rejects such a shameful statement and strongly believes that it could not be done by Samdech Chau Sen Cocsal [Chhum] by himself,” the government said in a press release received Monday.
“The so-called statement of Chau Sen Cocsal…is surely done under pressure from some crooked politicians who obliged him to furtively quit Phnom Penh without informing his relatives,” the government said.
The statement in question, which was faxed June 3 and bore Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum’s signature, charged that the dean had left the country on June 2 following a May 29 visit by “very high-ranking officials” who forced him to sign a letter calling the Constitutional Council’s inaugural meeting for June 3.
But in the government’s version, the dean “warmly received” the visit by Council of Ministers co-Minister Sok An, Cabinet co-Secretary of State Sum Manit and Constitutional Council member Thor Peng Leath, and signed the letter of his own free will.
Government spokesman Svay Sitha denied Tuesday that the visit by Sok An amounted to government interference in the nominally independent council, saying the body needed assistance to get up and running.
Svay Sitha added that the government had received “reliable information” on who was responsible for the statement, but declined to give specific names. “It is the politicians who are saying they will boycott the elections and are trying to disrupt the electoral process,” he said. “I think you could imagine who it is.”
The National United Front announced last month it would boycott the polls if they were held on July 26, saying conditions are not yet right for free and fair polls.
Opposition figure Sam Rainsy, a vocal critic of the council, said earlier this month that his office was responsible for forwarding Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum’s statements to media outlets.
Unlike previous statements which bore a printed header from Sam Rainsy’s fax machine, the contentious June 3 statement was apparently faxed direct from Australia. The English-language statement was received in Phnom Penh at noon on June 3, 24 hours after Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum was reportedly seen boarding a Royal Air Cambodge flight to Bangkok by Tioulong Saumura, Sam Rainsy’s wife.
Both Sam Rainsy and Tioulong Saumura were out of the country Tuesday and were unavailable for comment on the controversy.
The whereabouts of Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum remain unclear.