Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Former CNRP councillor sentenced to one year for incitement

Former CNRP councillor sentenced to one year for incitement

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A screenshot from a live video posted to Facebook in October by Pailin Commune Councillor Chhun Sithy, who on Friday was sentenced to one year in prison for “incitement”. Facebook

Former CNRP councillor sentenced to one year for incitement

A former CNRP commune councillor in Pailin was sentenced to one year in prison for “incitement” on Friday over videos he posted on Facebook last year.

Judge Ly Meng convicted former Stung Kach Commune Councillor Chhun Sithy of incitement to disturb social security and insulting a public official. The judge also ordered Sithy to pay $1,000 each to two complainants, according to Pailin Provincial Court Prosecutor Thol Kimhuerng.

Kimhuerng refused to answer further questions about the complainants, claiming that he did not remember who they were.

Sithy was arrested in October less than 24 hours after posting a video on Facebook rejecting Prime Minister Hun Sen’s call for Cambodia National Rescue Party officials to defect to the ruling party. At the time, prosecutors said Sithy was being charged over that video.

However, Sithy’s lawyer, Pheng Heng, said the court seemed to conflate the clip with previous videos that Sithy posted on his Facebook showing Cambodian People's Party officials arguing with opposition officials at the local commune hall.

In one of the videos, an outgoing CPP clerk threatens to “slap” a female CNRP commune councillor.

Heng said none of the videos amounted to incitement or insulting a public official.

“He did not have the intention to incite or look down on another person,” Heng said. “He just wanted to express his freedom and improve the characteristics of his staff.”

Chhun Sochea, Sithy’s younger sister, identified the complainants as the CPP clerk and the clerk’s assistant.

“They threatened to beat a CNRP commune councillor and [my brother] used a camera to take a video,” Sochea said. “Then the ones who threatened to beat others did not get accused of a crime, but the one who just took the video was guilty instead.”

“It is unjust for him because he was just keeping his stance strong,” she added. “He did not insult or incite anyone.”

Sithy is one of a string of government critics or opposition officials to face legal challenges in recent months, particularly following the forced dissolution of the CNRP at the government's behest. On Thursday, a judge sentenced a woman who threw a shoe at a CPP billboard to two years in prison for incitement to discriminate and insulting a public official. And in February, a man from Kampong Cham province was arrested on his wedding day for posting a Facebook video calling the government “authoritarian”.

The trial was monitored by the UN Office Of the High Commissioner For Human Rights in Cambodia. OHCHR representative Simon Walker declined to comment on Sithy's sentence but said in general that he "would recall the recent statement by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia" about how freedom of expression, association and assembly "should be protected and developed, not restricted."

This version updates with comment from UN Office Of the High Commissioner For Human Rights in Cambodia representative Simon Walker.

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • Prime Minister: Take back islands from inactive developers

    The government will “take back” land on roughly 30 islands from private companies that have not made progress on planned developments, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech on Monday that also targeted land-grabbing villagers and idle provincial governors. Speaking at the inauguration of the

  • Land on capital’s riverfront is opened up for investment

    The government has signed off on a proposal to designate more than 9 hectares of land along Phnom Penh’s riverfront as state-private land, opening it up for private investment or long-term leasing. The 9.25-hectare stretch of riverfront from the capital’s Night Market to the

  • Royal Group's Koh Rong luxury hotel officially opens

    The Royal Sands Koh Rong hotel on Monday marked its official launch as the first luxury resort on Cambodia’s most visited island. Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over the inauguration of the hotel, which has been open since December, and features rooms priced at