Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

NEC Upholds Convictions Against Opposition Members for Inciting Spoiled Ballots

Candlelight official Ly Menghorn at his NEC hearing on July 17, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)
Candlelight official Ly Menghorn at his NEC hearing on July 17, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

The National Election Committee (NEC) upheld the decisions of provincial election officials Thursday, who had convicted four opposition members and activists for inciting spoiled ballots in the national election.

Before the election, Provincial Election Committees (PECs) in Kompong Cham, Tboung Khmum and Pailin provinces fined the four people 10 million riel, about $2,400, each and banned them from running in elections for the next 10 years, according to NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea.

The opposition members and activists included Candlelight Party Chief Khem Monykosal, Koh Sotin district Party Secretary Ly Menghorng, activist Yan Sokhoeun from Tboung Khmum province and activist Sun Sophea from Pailin province.

“Yes, [they were] exercising their opinions but they incited to violate the [election] law,” Puthea said. 

NEC president Prach Chan presided over the hearing on July 27, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Menghorng told CamboJA that he was disappointed with the NEC’s Thursday decision to uphold the provincial ruling because it violated his right to freedom of expression.

“It is an injustice,” he said. “It seriously impacts my rights that I can’t run for election.”

He said he was charged because of two Facebook posts he made on July 1, the first day of the national election campaign period. He posted about how he could not join in campaigning because the Candlelight party was removed from the ballot and called for others to spoil their ballots, he said, but has since removed the posts.

Menghorng’s defense lawyer Sam Sokong said that his client agreed to file an appeal to the Constitutional Council.

“As a defense lawyer, we can’t accept this decision because it has not yet provided justice to the client,” he said, declining to comment further.

Monykosal and Sophea did not show up to their hearings on Thursday, according to Menghorng. 

So far, at least 38 opposition party members and activists have been convicted for inciting voters to spoil their ballots. According to documents published by the Phnom Penh’s PEC, these include former opposition figure Sam Rainsy and six other former CNRP lawmakers Mu Sochua, Long Ry, Nuth Romdul, Ho Vann, Kong Saphea, and Eng Chhai Eang, who all live abroad.

Monykosal did not answer a phone call from a CamboJA reporter on Thursday. CamboJA was unable to contact Yoeut and Sophea for comment.