Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Activist monk handed 2 years for incitement

Activist monk handed 2 years for incitement

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Dissident monk But Buntenh (centre) holds the toy gun that saw fellow monk Horn Sophanny charged with weapons possession at a protest outside the Battambang Provincial Court in June. Photo supplied

Activist monk handed 2 years for incitement

Activist monk Horn Sophanny, who was arrested and defrocked in June for a Facebook post in which he posed with a toy gun while making controversial political statements, was sentenced to two years in prison for incitement to commit a crime, while illegal weapons possession charges were dropped.

In the post, which was accompanied by a picture of the monk and a toy gun, Sophanny implied that he needed a gun to protect himself from what he called Prime Minister Hun Sen’s upcoming “civil war” during the 2018 elections.

“I do not dare to comment much on this case,” said Choung Choungy, Sophanny’s lawyer. “I will go to meet my client again to discuss with him what we should do next.”

Sophanny was a member of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, an activist group led by But Buntenh, who is currently abroad in America and facing a lawsuit of his own.

Lonh Sokchea, another member of the network, said Sophanny was targeted because of his past activism.

Sokchea said the prosecutor “took the case into the political sphere of 2013”, mentioning in court the monk’s participation in chants for Hun Sen to step down during post-election protests in Stung Meanchey.

Luon Sovath, a prominent activist monk who was charged with incitement in 2014, said Sophanny’s imprisonment was “crazy” and an “injustice”.

“I think that this case is related to the politics problem in Cambodia,” he said.

“They want to threaten all the monks in Cambodia that work for human rights and social justice,” Sovath said, adding that the government is particularly afraid of dissident monks because of the exalted status of the monkhood in Cambodian society.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Chak Sopheap said everyone in the Kingdom, including monks, has a constitutional right to freedom of expression.

“Political speech has a much higher level of protection than other forms of speech, because it is essential to a healthy democracy. Certain political speech can shock and offend, and may even be distasteful to some, but it is still subject to strong human rights protections,” she said via email.

Sopheap went on to criticise the charge of incitement as a “catch-all offense to criminalise and jail human rights defenders in Cambodia, in retaliation for their peaceful activism”.

Court spokesman Tieng Sambor said Sophanny had one month to appeal.

This article has been amended to clarify the meaning of comments made by Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Chak Sopheap.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said

  • Protests planned in New York as Hun Sen to attend the UN

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will speak at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week. But US-based supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) plan to throw eggs at his car as part of a series of protests to coincide

  • CPP: ‘Behave or Sokha suffers’

    The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman warned Kem Monovithya on Thursday that her attempt to damage “national reputation and prestige” would lead to her father, Kem Sokha, receiving even harsher punishment. Sok Eysan issued the warning as Monovithya, who is the court dissolved

  • Preah Sihanouk beach developments halted

    After receiving an order from Hun Sen, Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara led a team of experts and relevant officials to Sihanoukville to call a halt to the illegal development of a beach. The prime minister ordered the Prek Treng beach in Otres commune