The outlawed opposition party is attempting to disrupt the upcoming commune elections in 2022, alleged Interior Minister Sar Kheng, calling for local officials to be vigilant.
The minister was speaking in Kampot province at the swearing-in of a new governor on Wednesday. He ordered authorities at all levels to prevent “the opposition group” from obstructing the election and to ensure security for voters.
“I would like to ask the working group as well as the administration at all levels to support and participate in the preparation and success of the NEC voter list, including the security of public order, and to not be disturbed by the opposition who are trying to destroy the election,” the interior minister said.
Kheng did not detail if he was privy to an opposition plan to affect the election, nor did he explicitly name the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party. His rhetoric matches repeated attempts by the government to accuse the opposition of attempting to attack the government, with many former members of the party charged for similar crimes.
The government has accused the opposition CNRP of attempting to overthrow the government in a plot aided by the United States. The party was banned in November 2017 and 118 of its senior leaders barred from politics, though some have made comebacks through an ad-hoc amnesty scheme.
Sam Inn, a spokesperson for the fledgling Grassroots Democracy Party, said he didn’t believe the opposition would attempt to disrupt next year’s election, and that Kheng’s comment could frighten opposition supporters.
“It can intimidate former CNRP supporters; it can scare them away from participating in [politics],” he said.
He said the GDP would participate in the election as long as they could freely disseminate their party policies among the electorate.
Sam Kuntheamy, who heads election watchdog Nicfec, also worried about Sar Kheng’s messaging because it had the potential to scare off voters.
“So, it affects the free and fair election process because free elections are free of intimidation and there is no such thing as vote-buying too,” said Kuntheamy.
The commune elections are slated for June 5, 2022, with the national election scheduled for 2023.