An official and a local activist were arrested and sent to court in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town yesterday in connection with a Facebook post depicting a birth certificate insinuating that Svay Rieng is located in Vietnam.
Cambodia National Rescue Party commune councillor Norng Sarith, 42, who fills out birth certificates as part of his work, was charged with faking a public document, and local activist Sok Sam Ean, 38, was charged with incitement to commit a crime, according to a provincial police official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The birth certificate, dated November 2004 and bearing the name of Nhem Chhoeun, lists the place of birth as “Svay Rieng, Vietnam”, and was recently posted by Sam Ean, who fingered Sarith as its author, said Bavet commune police chief Mao Pin Pirom.
“It wasn’t difficult to look for [Sam Ean] because he used his real name” on Facebook, Pin Pirom said, noting that it only took 30 minutes to track the activist down. “We arrested Sam Ean and then Sarith. They both confessed to the accusation.”
The alleged forgery, he continued, “affects our society”.
“They lie that Svay Rieng is in Vietnam. It makes the world confused,” Pin Pirom said.
Prosecutor Kong Chan Khemarith said yesterday that he was too busy to comment.
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said he couldn’t make a firm judgement on the merits of the charges without knowing the details, but said that Sam Ean appeared to have been charged under a broad reading of the crime “incitement”. “Incite who? To commit what crime?” Sam Oeun asked, adding that the Ministry of Justice should issue more concrete guidelines for interpreting the charge.
In a separate case, Kiri Vong district police in Takeo are searching for a man also accused of posting a fake birth certificate on Facebook, this one insinuating that Takeo is in Vietnam.
Hem Seihak Bora, a district police official, said the certificate bore the name Suth Kong, but, when contacted, Kong professed not to know how to use the internet or Facebook.