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

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from