Two More Arrested for Thumbprint Petitions

Two CNRP activists in Kampot province and an official in Takeo province were the latest opposition figures to be arrested while petitioning for the release of jailed rights workers and party officials, as a government clampdown on the campaign continues.

Hun Hort, 59, and Huon Norn, 37, were detained in Chhuk district’s Lboeuk commune on Thursday for allegedly pressuring residents to thumbprint the document, said Sao Sam Oeun, deputy Kampot police chief.

“The residents filed the complaint accusing [the activists] of forcing them. We got complaints from six local residents,” Mr. Sam Oeun said.

The pair was released in the evening once they had signed a contract promising to stop petitioning for the release of the Adhoc workers, opposition officials and activists, he said.

On Wednesday, CNRP activists Chum Yang and Thom Sam Ol were also detained in Lboeuk commune before being released, he added.

The latest arrests bring the number of CNRP activists detained in Kampot to at least 13 in the past week, as the party attempts to gain support for a petition to send to King Norodom Sihamoni requesting royal pardons, said Chea Poch, a CNRP lawmaker for the province.

Mr. Poch said he had informed local activists and officials to cease petitioning on Sunday after receiving warnings from authorities.

“I advised our officials to postpone it temporarily five days ago, but authorities tried to create an excuse to arrest them,” he said.

“We only take the thumbprints from brothers and sisters who volunteer but authorities have prevented us. Eventually we stopped it and they still arrested them,” he said.

In neighboring Takeo province, Kheng Sam Ath, a CNRP deputy chief in Angkor Borei district’s Kok Thloak commune, was questioned at the Kampot police station on Thursday, provincial police chief Ouk Samnang said.

In a statement released on Thursday, Takeo provincial governor Lay Vannak called opposition activists collecting thumbprints “bad people” and requested residents inform authorities if they see anyone petitioning for the prisoners’ release.

At least 10 activists and officials have now been grilled by police over the petitions in Battambang province, said Chea Chiv, head of the CNRP’s provincial executive committee.

Mr. Chiv said he had also ordered CNRP officials and activists to postpone collecting thumbprints.

“Now I have advised each district to postpone collecting thumbprints from the general public but we are still collecting thumbprints from our activists and supporters,” he said.

Nguon Ratanak, deputy Battambang provincial governor, confirmed authorities were targeting activists attempting to collect thumbprints based on a directive from the Interior Ministry.

“When they rally to collect thumbprints like this, it affects public order,” Mr. Ratanak said. “The letter of the Interior Ministry ordered us to strengthen the public order and security, and it’s also our duty to protect public order.”

Interior Ministry spokesmen could not be reached on Thursday.

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