State Websites Deflect Criticisms Made Against Ruling Party

Content deflecting pre-election criticism of the ruling CPP appeared on two government-run websites Saturday, in what one critic said was an inappropriate use of state resources in the weeks before a national election.

In a rare act of support for a grassroots group, the website of the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit prominently posted in both Khmer and English a petition filed Friday at multiple diplomatic missions in Phnom Penh against a regular land rights protester.

The petition, thumb-printed by six rival Boeng Kak eviction activists, targeted activist Tep Vanny, who has received a land title for her home but has continued to protest with other evictees. “Tep Vanny is a selfish woman who regards herself as an authoritarian protest leader and does not concern about the common interest with behavior like Pol Pot, she doesn’t listen to anyone,” said one of

a raft of accusations in the petition. The petition’s lead signatory, Heng Mom, denied any influence from the ruling party or the government. The petition was delivered to the World Bank’s office, the European Union mission and several embassies in Phnom Penh on Friday. “There’s no government behind us regarding this issue,” she said, adding that she did not know who had provided the “unofficial translation” posted in English online since the petition was only originally printed in Khmer. Also Saturday, the state newswire

Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP)—which is operated from the Information Ministry—posted an “opinion” piece that hit back at calls for the U.S. to stop giving aid to Cambodia.

The AKP article, credited to Chhang Song of Long Beach, California, suggested Washington was “very much under pressure from Cambodia’s opposition to cut aid to Cambodia.”

“What will be the next step then for Washington to take when Hun Sen does not bow to its pressure, or if the Opposition did not win in the general election? Sending out drones to take Hun Sen out?” it reads.

Information Minister Khieu

Kanharith said in a message that the piece was the opinion of an individual and did “not involve AKP editorial policy.”

Kuol Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Election, said both instances showed government institutions’ habit of blurring the line between the government and ruling party and breaching impartiality rules.

“The reaction unit has no clear function. Do they serve the political party? It’s not clear,” he said, adding that although Boeng Kak was an ongoing issue, the timing of posting such a petition appeared to be designed to discredit CPP critics ahead of the election.

(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)

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