A 28-year-old man was arrested and brought in for questioning at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday for allegedly insulting and threatening to kill Prime Minister Hun Sen in a social media post, while a soldier was also questioned this week after a Facebook account linked to his name disparaged the premier.
The two separate cases come on the heels of warnings by Hun Sen that social media users who attack him would be traced within hours.
In one case, Man Sam Orn, of Kampong Thom province’s Stung Sen town, was yesterday questioned for several hours by Phnom Penh Municipal court deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok for allegedly threatening the premier on the social media site.
Conflicting reports emerged as to whether Sam Orn had been charged.
Speaking at the court yesterday evening, Sok claimed the case was “beyond our authority” and the suspect would be sent back to Kampong Thom provincial court.
However, Lim Than, an officer at the Interior Minister’s Department of Internal Security, which pursued the case, said the Korean-language student had in fact been charged and imprisoned.
Arrested at his home in Srayov commune on Wednesday afternoon, Sam Orn is accused of writing the offending remarks in the comments section of a post by Hun Sen with an account named Som Orn Koko.
According to a screen shot circulated on social media, Som Orn Koko stated “7 January is the date of your death” and wrote that the premier’s “eye was blind because of stealing guava to eat”.
Security forces reacted swiftly to the remarks. According to Srayov commune police chief Kang Sorn, officers from the internal security department were dispatched to Kampong Thom on Wednesday to liaise with local police.
Via the mobile phone number used to post the remarks, the officers traced and detained two suspects, Sam Orn and his cousin Born Sothea, 27, whose identification was used to buy the phone and SIM card and who was later released, Sorn said.
In the second case, Tuy Sophal, a soldier from Battambang, and his nephew were questioned by military police on Tuesday on suspicion of mocking Hun Sen on Facebook, said Battambang provincial military police commander Por Vannak.
Vannak said Sophal claimed someone else used his account and that he “loves the prime minister”.“We are investigating the case,” Vannak said.
To counter the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party’s success with younger voters online, the premier has dived into the digital age in recent months, becoming a prolific user of Facebook and launching his own website and app.
Though the 64-year-old has embraced the medium as a way to reach young voters, he’s been less tolerant of the freedom of interaction it entails.
In August, an opposition senator and student were jailed over separate Facebook posts that raised the government’s ire.
Last week the premier warned that those who insult him personally could be arrested.
Though the CNRP has enjoyed success via their social media use – CNRP president Sam Rainsy’s personal page reached 2 million likes yesterday – opposition members have also been targeted online.
In December 2013, CNRP deputy leader Kem Sokha’s life was threatened, allegedly by Interior Ministry Pheng Vannak, who claims his account was hacked.
The case was belatedly sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court in October, though no further announcements have been made.
CNRP deputy director-general of public affairs and Sokha’s daughter Kem Monovithya yesterday said the swift action in Sam Orn’s case compared to her father’s highlight the judicial system’s “double standards”.