A teacher and opposition activist who made spurious claims on Facebook that two Vietnamese men had kidnapped children and cut out their kidneys and eyes is now facing up to two years in prison after he was arrested on Saturday and charged with spreading false information.
Kampong Thom Provincial Court Investigating Judge Heng Sokchea on Sunday charged Nay Sineng, 33, with “the communication or disclosure of any false information with a view to inducing a belief that a destruction, defacement or damage dangerous to other persons will be carried out” and sent him to pre-trial detention.
Sineng, who is an activist for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, wrote on Facebook that “three Vietnamese people kidnapped the children to yank out their kidney and eyes, and two of them were captured by the people”, though the account was disputed by police.
“Please be careful with your children since they are very wild,” the activist wrote, adding the “disclaimer” that: “We are not racist, but we hate this activity that these guys have committed against innocent children.”
Kampong Thom Police Chief Ouk Kosal said that the men – who he said were from Prey Veng province’s Kampong Trabek district – were not Vietnamese or kidnappers. He said monks had reported them as suspicious to police, who had begun to question them when they tried to flee and were beaten bloody by an angry mob.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said he hoped authorities would conduct an “independent investigation” into the case but distanced the opposition party from any racial rhetoric. “We appeal to all Cambodian people to post the facts, the true happenings, not to create a culture of violence, defamation and things that are not good for society,” he said.
Another man was also beaten in Preah Sihanouk province on Saturday over false kidnapping claims. The rash of such claims – with 32 reports in the past fortnight – came after the abduction and subsequent return of an 8-year-old girl from her Phnom Penh school on June 23.
Police are still investigating the case, in which the girl was convinced by a stranger to leave. She was later returned to school unharmed.
At a press conference yesterday in Phnom Penh, National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith addressed the spiralling rumours, which the government has been denying in statements for the last few weeks.
“For a month now, there are individuals and groups with bad intentions to provoke or broadcast the untrue information about the child kidnapping,” he said, stressing that the claims was false.