Despite not being considered a criminal suspect, the owner of a Facebook page allegedly used to make threats against Prime Minister Hun Sen remains in custody for questioning, in apparent violation of Cambodian law.
Last Wednesday, Preah Sihanouk province casino driver Pich Roth Tha’s Facebook account featured a selfie next to a picture of a handgun along with an explicit threat for the Prime Minister: “Hun Sen, you kill too many Khmer [people], it will not be long before you will be dead by my hand.” A second post announced Roth Tha’s intention to shoot Hun Sen in the head.
The following morning, Roth Tha turned himself in to provincial police, claiming that an unknown person hacked his Facebook account to post the threatening comments. Provincial police transferred him to the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Terrorism Department for questioning later that day.
Death threats against high-ranking officials have drawn prosecutions in the past, but officials yesterday said that Roth Tha was no longer being considered as a suspect, but was nonetheless being held.
“We are still investigating it and there is no information [that we released him],” said chief of the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Terrorism Department Y Sokhy on Tuesday evening, denying the veracity of local media reports early this week that announced Roth Tha had been freed.
“Now we see he did not post any bad words on his account, someone else [who was] using his account posted on his behalf,” said National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith yesterday. “He is still at the Ministry of Interior [and] we will allow him to return home when we find the offender.”
Chantharith said the real offender would be sent to court, and hung up before clarifying precisely what charges the culprit would face.
According to legal expert Sok Sam Ouen, under Cambodian law, police can only detain a suspect without charge for 48 hours for a misdemeanor, or 72 hours for a felony. Roth Tha has been in custody for a week.
“If the ministry said his account was hacked, it’s clear he didn’t commit that crime. He is innocent in that regard and should be allowed to return home,” said Cambodian Center for Human Rights Advocacy Director Piseth Duch. “[Roth Tha] can still cooperate with the authorities when he is free.”