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Lese majeste ‘violator’ to remain behind bars while appeal is lodged

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Ban Samphy of Siem Reap became the second person charged under the Kingdom's new law against insulting the King. Supplied

Lese majeste ‘violator’ to remain behind bars while appeal is lodged

A violater of the lese majeste law continued to be held in jail in Siem Reap province despite having served his sentence, after an appeal from the provincial prosecutor blocked his release.

Ban Samphy, 70, a barber and deputy leader of CNRP in Siem Reap province’s Chi Kraeng district, was sentenced in October to one-year imprisonment, five months of which were suspended, after being convicted of violating Cambodia’s lese majeste law.

Samphy was arrested and put in pre-trial detention on May 20 after he was ruled to have shared an offensive photograph of the King on social media. The picture depicted Prime Minister Hun Sen, first lady Bun Rany and the King in a car, accompanied by a message insulting the king.

His defence lawyer Sam Titseyha said his client was innocent of wrongdoing.

“He [Samphy] just shared the pictures from another user. He did not edit the picture,” he said.

Titseyha added that with the five-month suspended sentence Samphy should have been released on Thursday, but his release was delayed due to an appeal.

“He received a one-year sentence with five months suspended, and he has served a seven-month jail term already. But the prosecutor filed an appeal complaint against the trial judge’s decision. The case has now been forwarded to the Appeal Court,” he said.

Siem Reap provincial court spokesperson Yin Srang confirmed the situation, saying on Thursday: “The prosecutor filed the appeal complaint, so he could not be released.”

Samphy’s is the second high profile lese majeste case this year, following the government’s controversial March amendment to the lese majeste law which criminalised any “word, gesture, writing, picture or other media which affects the dignity of the individual [the King]”.

In May, Kheang Navy, 50, became the first person to fall foul of the new law. Navy, principal at Stung Sen district’s Prey Tahou Primary School, was arrested for comments he made on Facebook accusing the King of bearing responsibility for the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

On Thursday, a local police official told The Post that in early December Navy was “released and began teaching again”.

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