Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng said individuals advocating for a boycott of July 29 elections could face a fine of up to 5,000 dollars for what he claimed violated a law against obstructing voters.
Local media reports on Monday quoted Kheng as saying that “It’s not a serious crime, so authorities cannot make arrests.
“We can only fine them.”
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, is expected to easily sweep the elections since its only viable challenger, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was outlawed by court order last year at the government’s request.
The CNRP president was also jailed on widely criticized charges of treason, which he denies.
CNRP leaders, many of whom fled the country amid a broader government crackdown on the opposition, media and civil society called for an election boycott in protest.
Five former CNRP officials were accused by a local ruling party official of violating the election law after Chea Chiv, an opposition member, posted a photo on Facebook.
Chea’s post was showing about 30 ex-CNRP officials holding up a “clean finger” to symbolize that their digit would not be inked on election day.
Indelible ink is used to show if someone has voted in order to prevent fraud.
Legal expert Sok Oeun said he understood obstruction to mean an act of preventing someone from voting, although verbally promoting a boycott in person could be interpreted as a physical act in some cases.
He did not think the CNRP photo constituted an act of obstruction.
“For me, I think that is free speech,” Oeun said.