Local Officials Told to Investigate Election Offenses

The Ministry of Interior has ordered local authorities across the country to investigate all offenses related to the national election in order to ensure that the atmosphere before the July 28 vote is fair and free of political intimidation.

In a statement released Friday, Interior Minister Sar Kheng called on provincial authorities to be vigilant when investigating and prosecuting offenders who commit election-related crimes, such as defacing the posters of political parties.

The announcement comes just days after 16 opposition Cam­bodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) signs were vandalized in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces.  The Ministry of Interior subsequently accused, though did not directly name, the CNRP of vandalizing the signs themselves.

“All authorities must seriously investigate any offenses that happen during this election period, especially for crimes that are political and for things that would affect the political atmosphere,” the statement says. “This includes threats, intimidation or attempts to remove political party signs or deface them—such as what happened in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces on June 18 and 19.”

A “quick reaction group” will be formed to respond to any problems that happen in relation to all political parties, it adds.

The statement also orders local authorities to provide security and traffic support to “all political parties, especially during the electoral campaign.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann on Sunday continued to deny that the CNRP had destroyed their own signs, adding that three more signs were destroyed this weekend in Siem Reap and Oddar Meanchey provinces.

Yem Ponhearith, head of the CNRP’s Prey Veng working group, said acting president Kem Sokha’s visit to the province last week to speak to voters was disrupted by about 10 people who began blaring music, making it impossible for anyone to hear him. In addition, a total of eight political party signs have been destroyed or removed in the province since April, he said.

“We welcome these guidelines to provide security services for all political parties, but all political parties need neutrality, safety and public order during the electoral campaign equally,” Mr. Ponhearith said.

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