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Prince Thomico denies Fresh News story that he is leading group to destroy polls

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Prince Sisowath Thomico speaks at a political rally in Phnom Penh in 2013. Scott Howes

Prince Thomico denies Fresh News story that he is leading group to destroy polls

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a cousin of King Norodom Sihamoni, strenuously denied a Fresh News report that he was the mastermind behind a group of opposition activists planning to disrupt the July 29 national elections.

The report on Monday said that on a recent evening, a group of 12 young supporters of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) met with Prince Thomico in Phnom Penh.

Citing a “youth” who attended the meeting, the discussions revolved around plans to “destroy the election”, in accordance with former opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s call to boycott it.

Fresh News also reported that the group was preparing to post stories and images from the post-2013 national election period that would incite violence and promote discrimination against Vietnamese in the country.

The group was also accused of fabricating information about the ink used to show that someone had voted, and creating “fake news” about leaders of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), including Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The news came hours after Hun Sen warned that those who were spreading rumours that some ink to be used in the elections was poisoned face arrest, as do those who call for people to boycott the polls.

Prince Thomico, who joined the CNRP in 2013 and stood as a candidate for Preah Sihanouk province in the 2013 general elections, called the accusation “baseless” and meant to “slander and defame” him.

Speaking to The Post on Tuesday, Thomico said he did indeed meet with youths, on Friday, but it was at a friend’s home. It involved only him and two recently married couples whose weddings he could not attend.

“I hosted a party for two couples, not 12 people as the report said. Those couples just recently married when I was abroad. I promise that when I returned, I would invite them to come together to give gifts and blessings,” he said.

As for the topic of conversation, it was not about disrupting the elections. “I consider all these accusations as slander and defamation,” he said.

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said any member of the royal family who committed a crime would be punished according to the law, just as any ordinary person would.

He said that any calls to boycott the election would go against the expressed wishes of the King, who last month called on the people to register and vote on July 29.

Sopheak also said he agreed with the prime minister’s call to take action against anyone planning to disrupt the polls. “They want to destroy the election. They want the country to fall into chaos and to kill democracy,” he said.

However, he did not say if the ministry would investigate the prince and his alleged plans to disrupt the elections.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan wrote on Telegram that as the election approaches, “ill-intentioned people from opposing teams” have and continue to increase criminal activities.

“The creation of negative news such as election ink killing people shows that they are not afraid to commit a crime against Cambodians, oppose democracy and act against national security."

“Even though these ill-intentioned people have great ambitions, they cannot accomplish them. In the end, they will be punished by law for their crimes that are destroying the country,” Eysan said.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay believes the prince is being targeted by the government.

He told The Post: “Our prime minister is targeting him because of his grudges since he called [Hun Sen’s] regime a beastly one. His action is a warning to others in the opposition party not to carry out activities [that oppose] the election.” he said.

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