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Indigenous insults on Facebook get hearing

A youth member of the League for Democracy Party was tried yesterday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on allegations he publicly insulted the Kuoy ethnic group, allegedly calling their traditions “crazy” and “stupid”.

Theam Sotthea, 25, who is an ethnic Kuoy himself, was sued by three groups, including the Cambodian Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA), for posts on Facebook he made in August.

Hang Sokna, the presiding judge, said the accused had been charged with “public insult” under Article 307 of the Criminal Code.

Sotthea’s comments were made on August 10, a day after World Indigenous People’s Day, when numerous ethnic groups gathered in Ratanakkiri province, slaughtered cattle and pigs, and performed traditional rituals, according to CIYA president Pheap Sochea.

Sotthea had attended the event, he added, and afterwards posted on Facebook that the groups were practicing “crazy traditions” that were “cruel and useless”, and railed against the “stupid acts of ethnic peoples” that were “not the way towards progress”.

Sokna said that the ethnic community was asking for a public apology and three buffalo from Sotthea.

During yesterday’s hearing, Sotthea admitted to having made the online comments, but said he did not defame or insult anyone and was merely stating his opinion.

“I had no intention to look down on or insult indigenous people,” he said.

A verdict is due August 31.

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