Party Official Detained for Distributing Leaflets

Police briefly detained the local head of a minor political party on Saturday for distributing leaflets outlining his party’s platform at markets around Phnom Penh.

Khun Sawakkhet, executive director of the Democratic Republic Party in Phnom Penh, said he was detained by Daun Penh district police at Central Market and sent for questioning by police in Chamkar Mon district, where he resides.

“They accused me of illegally distributing leaflets, because this is not the election campaign time,” he said.

“I told them that I distribute leaflets on the policy principles of my party,” Mr. Sawakkhet added. “I did not hold a demonstration, because that causes people to die.”

Police could not be reached for comment, but Chamkar Mon governor Prum Samkhann confirmed that authorities had held Mr. Sawakkhet on Saturday.

“We just wanted to question him because he walked to distribute leaflets like this,” Mr. Samkhann said.

Mr. Sawakkhet’s leaflets exhorted voters to choose the Democratic Republic Party “to buy happiness and social paradise to help our children, our grandchildren and ourselves.” It said the party aimed to “change back from a nationalist society to the Cambodian society of Moha Nokor,” a term for the Angkorian-era Khmer empire.

It also called for changing “a society of prostitution, alcohol and gambling to a society of acumen, meditation and determination.”

Sok Sam Oeun, founder of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said there was no law against distributing political pamphlets outside of a campaign period.

“This may be an abuse of freedom of expression,” he said of Mr. Sawakkhet’s detention.

Chan Yeth, the party’s vice president, said Mr. Sawakkhet frequently distributed pamphlets touting the party’s policies.

“His activity was just to broadcast the Democratic Republican Party policy to supporters. Sawakkhet thinks that this activity is not illegal. It is a normal activity for him.”

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