A 20-year-old woman was charged in Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court yesterday with incitement and public insult for posts made on Facebook about Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Queen Mother.
The woman, Moeung Lihor, a fruit vendor working in Thailand’s Rong Klua market, was arrested on Friday afternoon by Military Police after authorities had been tracking her Facebook posts over the past several months, said Prom Theng, the chief of the provincial Military Police’s judicial bureau.
“In short, she posted news on Facebook and she defamed Queen Mother [Norodom Monineath] and Samdech Hun Sen. It affects the leader’s reputation,” he said.
The posts, shown in screenshots published by government-aligned Fresh News and Swift News Daily, feature edited photos in which the prime minister is labelled a “traitor” and “murderer”. The premier and the Queen Mother are also labelled “yuon” – a derogatory term for Vietnamese.
Lihor was arrested at her home in Poipet town after police learned she had returned home from working in Thailand, Theng said, adding that the authorities acted on their own initiative. “No one filed the complaint, but authorities and the prosecutor saw it as terrible,” he said.
According to Theng, Lihor confessed responsibility for posting the messages, but said she was inspired by another user with the pseudonym “Ear Kimseng”, who often posts similar content.
The court charged Lihor with public insult and incitement under articles 307 and 496 of the Criminal Code for three posts made in February and March.
She is the latest netizen to be arrested for posts insulting the prime minister since Hun Sen issued a warning in December 2015. Since then several users have faced legal consequences for Facebook posts, most recently a 31-year-old Banteay Meanchey woman who was granted bail last month.
Prosecutor Sok Keobandith yesterday declined to comment. Lihor faces fines totalling up to 16 million riel, or about $3,920, and up to three years’ imprisonment under the combined charges.
Soeng Sen Karuna, a senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, said that “educating” Lihor would be preferable to the seemingly excessive charges. He also expressed concern at the rate at which Cambodians are being arrested for expressing opinions on social media.
“If the government . . . continues to take action on kind of these cases we are concerned there will be more of them, and more and more Cambodian people will face arrest,” he said.