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Arrest threatened over CNRP petition 'irregularities'

People load folders containing thumbprinted CNRP petitions into a vehicle at the Royal Palace late last month.
People load folders containing thumbprinted CNRP petitions into a vehicle at the Royal Palace late last month. Hong Menea

Arrest threatened over CNRP petition 'irregularities'

The Ministry of Interior yesterday threatened legal action against CNRP lawmaker Yem Ponhearith after a National Police investigation found irregularities in a 170,000-thumbprint petition the party had sent to King Norodom Sihamoni.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the petition, which requested the King’s intervention following a slew of legal cases against CNRP activists and lawmakers, had some CNRP supporter names but no corresponding thumbprints, and vice versa, and given that Ponhearith was the CNRP’s signatory on the document he could face legal action.

“If there is a complaint, this case will be serious for Yem Ponhearith,” he said. “In ancient times, Ponhearith could be beheaded [for this].”

Sopheak added that the government would continue to investigate the alleged forgery of what he classified as a “public document”, and would not back down from taking action against Ponhearith.

The government has been accused of using the Kingdom’s courts to target opposition parliamentarians and activists, having already jailed 11 CNRP activists for “insurrection”, as well as Sam Rainsy Party Senator Hong Sok Hour and National Assembly member Um Sam An for alleged incitement relating to posts on Facebook about the Vietnamese border. Court cases are currently in progress against both self-exiled party president Sam Rainsy and acting president Kem Sokha.

A government committee investigating the CNRP petition announced on Tuesday “many irregularities” had been found after an examination of more than half of the thumbprints.

CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said the government had never before tested the authenticity of petitions. “The Ministry of Interior and government’s action opposes the peoples’ petition and intention. They should stop using this to threaten and bully us – we are not afraid.”

He added that Ponhearith had not faked the documents and was only representing the party and people by handing over the petition. “As an administrative procedure, he has the obligation to help to receive the petition and then send it to the King,” Chhay Eang added.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said experts were working on the case, and people who had used their thumbprint for more than one name would be questioned. He refused to comment on whether the CPP would file a complaint against Ponhearith.

“We will not talk about it until the analysis comes in from technical experts,” he said.

Following a gathering of supporters at the CNRP’s headquarters on Tuesday, 700 youth supporters are expected to gather there again on Saturday. CNRP chief whip Son Chhay on Wednesday said the party would consider marching to deliver a second petition to the King.

Without referring to either planned event specifically, Sopheak said the government would use any means to prevent the CNRP from disturbing the peace.

An earlier version of this article misquoted Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak. He did not say, “In Vietnam, Ponhearith could be beheaded [for this]," referring to alleged irregularities in an opposition petition. In fact, he said: "In ancient times, Ponhearith could be beheaded for this." The Post apologises for any confusion.

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