Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

21 Opposition Activists Overseas Fined, Banned From Running for Office for 20 Years

A spoiled ballot at a Phnom Penh polling station. (CamboJA/Sovann Sreypich)
A spoiled ballot at a Phnom Penh polling station. (CamboJA/Sovann Sreypich)

Twenty-one opposition members and activists were banned from holding elected office for at least 20 years after being convicted in absentia of inciting voters to spoil their national election ballots by the Phnom Penh Municipal Election Committee (PEC) on Tuesday.

They were also fined 10 million riel ($2,400).

The opposition activists, including Soung Neakpean, Hay Vanna, venerable Loun Sovath, were called for a hearing on Monday, according to PEC documents.

“All of them live abroad, they have incited the voters to spoil ballots [election day]” according to PEC director Sim Dony.

On July 17, the PEC banned 17 other overseas opposition members, including Sam Rainsy from holding offices for at least 20 years.

The venerable Sovath, who lives in asylum in Switzerland, posted on July 22 said that because voters were granted secrecy, “if we spoiled the ballot…no one will know and please don’t be afraid, there is no prosecution.”

Hay Vanna, the former CNRP Movement head in Japan, where he still lives, told CamboJA via messenger that he wasn’t surprised at the election committee’s punishment.

“I am not afraid, related to my conviction, because I did nothing wrong,” he said. “I appealed to citizens to spoil the ballot by following their will because if the election is free and fair, we won’t call for spoiling the ballot.”

“The party people have loved doesn’t exist on the ballot, they can keep the ballot empty or spoil it,” he added, referring to the disqualification of the Candlelight Party.

NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea could not be reached for comment.