Grassroots Party Says Svay Rieng Official Blocking Their Activities

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GDP members put up a party sign in Svay Rieng’s Svay Yea commune on February 13, 2022. (GDP’s Facebook page)

The Grassroots Democratic Party in Svay Rieng province has declared a commune chief intends to obstruct the party’s campaign activities in his jurisdiction.

The party’s provincial executive chief Khoeun Sophoan said on Monday that Svay Yea commune chief Sok Sam On had made it difficult for party members to engage in political activities such as raising signs and holding rallies.

Sophoan said party members on Sunday had planned to post signs at three locations and hold a meeting of as many as 30 people. Sam On rejected that plan, Sophoan continued, and after three meetings between him and party members said they could only post one billboard but not gather at all. Sam On claimed the party could not hold the meeting because it does not have a headquarters in the area, according to Sophoan, and also said they could post a sign at only one location.

The party executive said the commune chief’s actions went against the laws and instructions of the Ministry of Interior regarding the commune council election in June. Sophoan also said Sam On did not understand these laws.

“Even though [Sam On] represents the CPP, he is still the commune chief and he has to take off his party shirt and serve the general people,” Sophoan said. “But he always makes it difficult for other political parties. Generally, he might be afraid of competition.”

In a brief response to the party’s allegations before hanging up, commune chief Sam On said he had acted within his legal capacity.

“Let them look at the law, and if [ they] want to know, come to the commune hall, I will make a copy,” he said.

According to a letter signed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng dated February 7, all banners at private locations are not required to apply for a permit, though posters must notify the commune three days in advance.

The gathering of political parties at either headquarters or private houses does not require permission, the letter reads, but organizers must inform commune authorities. 

Korn Savang, a coordinator with election-monitoring group Comfrel, says it’s wrong that authorities require parties to seek permission to carry out their activities. 

“It is not right to say there needs to be a request from the top to the bottom regarding the banner or the rally! In general, local authorities are required to compromise for putting up banners,” Savang said, explaining that supervision is supposed to be non-partisan. “[They handle] how to coordinate, mediating in case putting up the banner affects the public or other political parties.”

The commune election will be held June 5. As the election draws closer, numerous political parties are also stepping up activities across Cambodia.

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