Thousands of leaflets branding opposition leader Sam Rainsy a saboteur and questioning his Cambodian nationality were distributed on Phnom Penh’s streets Wednesday morning by a little-known teachers’ association.
“[Sam Rainsy] always causes sabotage of all kinds to the policy of the royal government,” alleged the leaflets, printed in red ink, from the Association of Cambodian National Teachers.
“So we don’t allow the two-nationality person like Sam Rainsy to come cause trouble in Cambodia again and would also not consider him as a person that has Khmer blood,” the leaflets read.
Association President Ourng Sotheara, 32, said the idea to print the 15,000 leaflets emerged from his members, and that there was no need to seek government permission to hand out the anti-opposition material.
“Actually, we didn’t ask for permission from local authorities, because our work is not against the government,” he said, adding that two-thirds of a 75-member committee had approved the project.
The primary goals of the association are to provide human resources development and emergency assistance to teachers in need, Ourng Sotheara said, adding that the association’s membership has grown to 900 primary and high school teachers and university professors since its foundation in 2002.
Several Phnom Penh traffic police officials said they saw approximately 10 people in a white mini-bus distributing leaflets in rush-hour traffic at about 9 am but did not intervene.
“I don’t understand this,” one officer said of the leaflets. “Our Cambodian country is in anarchy,” he added.
Phnom Penh Police Commissioner Heng Pov said he knew nothing of the leaflets.
Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association President Rong Chhun alleged that the association was working for the government.
“I don’t pay attention to this Association of Cambodian National Teachers because it is only a front to serve the ruling party. It doesn’t serve teachers’ interests,” Rong Chhun said. “There is no democracy when only one side is allowed to protest,” he added.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said there was no need for government permission to distribute leaflets, because such material is protected under free expression, unless the leaflets create social instability or go against the Constitution.
Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said the government was trying to create distractions while they sign controversial border agreements with Vietnam.