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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Death threat goes to trial

Ven Sopheap, 27, is escorted out of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after his trial for allegedly threatening the life of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Ven Sopheap, 27, is escorted out of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after his trial for allegedly threatening the life of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Pha Lina

Death threat goes to trial

A man charged with threatening to kill Prime Minister Hun Sen last year in a Facebook post admitted to the charges and pleaded for a light sentence yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Ven Sopheap, 27, a resident of Boeng Choar village in Prey Veng’s Prey Toeng commune, was arrested on October 27, then transferred to the Interior Ministry’s cybercrimes department.

The arrest followed the posting of a video that threatened to kill the prime minister and another post which “incited discrimination” against ethnic Vietnamese, presiding judge Ly Sokleng told the courtroom.

Charges of death threats and incitement to discriminate carry potential sentences of six months to two years and one to three years, respectively.

In the hearing, anti-cybercrime police officer Hay Makara said the suspect had used a Facebook account under the name of “Sopheap Konkhmer” to post a video death threat aimed at the premier, which was accompanied by a post reading “Hun Sen, today is your last day!”

“Soon, I will burn you,” a voice can be heard saying in the video, which threatens to set fire to a baby doll referred to as “Hun Sen”.

Sopheap yesterday admitted having written the post, but denied creating the video, which he said he downloaded from an unknown Facebook user and reposted about 10 days later.

Makara said Sopheap’s second Facebook post claimed that “beheading Vietnamese people is the duty of Cambodian people”. Sopheap told the court he had simply copied a comment that appeared under the earlier video clip.

As of yesterday, the 31-second video was still available on Sopheap’s account, which had numerous remarks critical of the government, but the post allegedly inciting violence against Vietnamese could not be found.

Judge Sokleng said both charges followed the Ministry of Interior’s initiative and not a complaint by the prime minister. “The court charged you to prevent crimes,” he told Sopheap.

The accused was not represented by a lawyer yesterday, though it was not immediately clear if he had chosen to waive his right to be represented. “I regret what I did without consideration. Now, I know my mistakes,” Sopheap said in requesting the minimum sentence.

The case is not the first of its sort. In January of last year, a man was charged under the same Criminal Code articles as Sopheap for allegedly addressing Hun Sen in a similar Facebook-based death threat that read: “7 January is the date of your death”.

He was later released on bail, and maintained that someone had hacked his account.

In another similar case, a man was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in February 2015 after posting a death threat on his Facebook page aimed at prominent Cambodian academic Sok Touch.

The verdict is due on February 24.

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