The Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) now has around 500 of its party billboards spread throughout the country. But Phnom Penh residents aren’t likely to see any in the capital, with bureaucratic hoops, and in one case physical obstruction, allegedly preventing the small opposition challenger from putting them up so far.
Sam Inn, general secretary of the party and its Phnom Penh head, said GDP had been stopped from installing a billboard in Kork Kleang commune in Sen Sok district in November. In late March, the party filed a second request for a billboard along Hanoi Street. Both requests are still awaiting responses, he said.
“Although there are two CPP billboards over there, the district authorities did not allow us [to put it up] and brought their forces to stop us in late November 2017,” he said. His party then informed the commune hall, which told them to send a request to City Hall, where it has sat with no response since December.
He said GDP filed another request to the Kork Kleang Commune Hall in March, which initially accepted the letter before instructing them to send a request to the district hall.
“We think that Sen Sok district and municipal authorities caused problems on the right to instal our billboard,” he said.
Nhat Samet, Kork Kleang commune chief, declined to comment. When asked if authorities approved the billboard for GDP, he asked a reporter: “Is it related to you as a journalist?”
Mov Manit, Sen Sok district governor, also declined to comment, and Met Measpheakdey, Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman, denied that municipal authorities had obstructed the party.
“We do not accept the allegation, and we always provide cooperation for political party billboard installation. If it cannot be installed in one location, we usually coordinate to instal the billboard in another place,” Measpheakdey said.
Khat Sothy, deputy head of GDP, on Monday asked for “equal treatment” of all political parties.
“It’s the City Hall’s intention not to let us instal our billboards,” he said, adding the party was waiting to get a response this week.
Yoeurng Sotheara, an election expert, said that if true, the failure to allow the party to put up billboards was unacceptable. “This unfair treatment would cause unfair competition between registered contesting political parties in a democratic process,” he said. “Government authorities have no reason to cause any difficulties without a reasonable justification to the request.”