Interior Minister Sar Kheng is seeking the legal means to engineer the acquittal of a student who threatened in a Facebook post to bomb a graduation ceremony he was scheduled to attend.
The student, Tao Savoeun, wrote a letter to the minister on Monday, apologising and pleading for mercy. Sar Kheng read the letter yesterday, said ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, and the minister is considering ways the student might be granted clemency.
“Samdech [Sar Kheng] read the letter and he is considering this case, because he has not filed the complaint against the student,” Sopheak said yesterday. “He has not accused the student. We are finding a legal procedural way [to help him].”
Tao Savoeun, 26, was arrested on September 28, shortly after getting his bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Southeast Asia in Siem Reap.
Angry with the minister because of changes to the graduation ceremony date, which interfered with his work schedule, Savoeun posted that he would “place a bomb to kill everyone” at the graduation on his Facebook account.
In his letter from Siem Reap Provincial Prison, Savoeun said that he acted with a “lack of consideration and bad temper.” But, he added, he did not commit any actual crime.
Savoeun’s parents also posted a video clip on his Facebook wall, begging Sar Kheng for the student’s release. “It’s his mistake. Please release him,” said Savoeun’s mother, Hin Kien, who said the family depends on her son’s income.
Moeuy Saroum, Savoeun’s cousin, said yesterday that Savoeun is a “hardworking student and a gentleman,” who supports his parents and four younger sisters. “In the village, he’s poor, but gets a high education,” said Saroum. “The parents sold cows and buffalos to support his studies.”
Savoeun’s case followed on the heels of the recent announcement of a new “anti-cybercrime” department within the Ministry of Interior tasked with monitoring online activity.
Ny Chakrya, head of human rights and legal aid at rights group Adhoc, said Savoeun’s threat was not a crime, but rather tantamount to a street argument, in which people threaten to kill one another, never intending to follow through.
“The government threatens young people who use social media,” he said, equating the arrest with recent arrests over political comments. “If they are afraid, they can’t criticise the government.”