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17 Opposition Members Fined and Stripped of Voting Rights for 20-25 Years

PHNOM PENH: The Phnom Penh Election Committee (PEC) has decided to remove exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy from the voter registration list and disqualify him from candidature for 25 years. Meanwhile, another 16 people were given the same punishment for 20 years.

The 17 were charged with inciting voters to vandalize or invalidate their ballots, an offence which falls under the new election laws passed earlier this month. In addition to suspending his voting rights and disqualifying him from standing for election, Sam Rainsy was also fined 20 million Riels, while the others were fined 10 million Riels for the offense.

None of the accused are in Cambodia and rather live in self-exile abroad, some having sought asylum in places like Europe, the US and New Zealand. Additionally, none of the accused claim any connection to the Candlelight Party. The names on the list include Sam Rainsy, Seng Meng Ponrong, Sor Chandeth, Kong Saphea, Heng Danaro, Kim Sok, Cham Chany, Mu Sochua, Long Ry, Ho Van, Eng Chhay Eang, Nuth Romduol, Phan Rithy, Chhey Odom Reaksmey, Neang Sokhun and Mao Vibol.

According to Article 142 of the new election law, those who instruct or incite voters to invalidate or damage their ballots shall be fined five million to 20 million Riels before considering other criminal charges. The new Article 143 stipulates that a political party that commits the same offenses may be disqualified from running candidates in elections for at least 5 years by the NEC.

On July 16, Candlelight Party Executive, Ly Ry, and Chairman of the Phnom Penh Candlelight Party, Bun Kate, were sent to court in connection with inciting people to invalidate their votes. Bun Kate made an apologetic confession video the same day, in which he said he was following the orders of Sam Rainsy.

Prime Minister Hun Sen posted the video on his Telegram channel and questioned the Candlelight Party’s respect for state laws and their repeated insistence that they are not connected to Rainsy.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea could not confirm the extent of the Candlelight Party’s involvement in the alleged incitement, saying that the NEC was continuing to carry out its investigation.  

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