Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Man arrested on wedding day for criticising government on Facebook

Man arrested on wedding day for criticising government on Facebook

San Rotha, 29, is seen in a video posted to Facebook in which he calls the government ‘authoritarian’. He was arrested over the video on Thursday in Kampong Cham. Facebook
San Rotha, 29, is seen in a video posted to Facebook in which he calls the government ‘authoritarian’. He was arrested over the video on Thursday in Kampong Cham. Facebook

Man arrested on wedding day for criticising government on Facebook

A 29-year-old man from Kampong Cham was interrogated yesterday following his arrest last week – on his wedding day – for calling the Cambodian government “authoritarian” in a video clip posted to Facebook.

The arrest is just the latest involving online dissent, with human rights groups saying free speech is now “under daily threat” by Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Mean Prom Mony, provincial investigator with Adhoc in Kampong Cham, said San Rotha was arrested by provincial Military Police on February 8 over a warrant accusing him of “public insult of the leader and public defamation”, adding that Rotha’s arrest took place at 7am while he was taking a shower before getting married in Poipet.

Prom Mony added that Rotha was interrogated by a prosecutor on Saturday and Sunday, as well as by a judge on Sunday.

Huot Vuthy, spokesman for the Kampong Cham Provincial Court, said Rotha was not only being questioned for alleged public insult, but for incitement as well, though he wasn’t able to specific the charges.

“We are interrogating [him] and I don’t know whether [the case] will be dismissed or not,” he said.

While the original Facebook post couldn’t be located on Rotha’s profile yesterday, the video clip was widely shared in October, just a month before the Cambodia National Rescue Party – the country’s only viable opposition in this year’s scheduled national election – was forcibly dissolved at the government’s behest.

“I want to inform the people and people supporting [the] CNRP to stand up again, and please do not be scared by all the actions and intimidations of some authoritarians,” Rotha says in the clip. “If you do not stand up and unite together, we will not get loose from the devil’s hand.”

He goes on to say that “corruption cannot win over the people’s solidarity power”.

“We know already that the authoritarian people [want] to gain victory, they use all the strategies and mind games, and they try to act in all forms to undermine the CNRP supporters’ mind,” he says.

Keo Oun, Rotha’s sister-in-law, said Rotha had recently returned from working in Thailand and was getting ready to get married when he was taken by Military Police.

“The Military Police forces handcuffed [him] and [took] him into the vehicle, and his mother was crying,” she said. “The Military Police said that they would just educate him and would release him six months later because he apologised and promised to stop playing on Facebook.”

Phil Roberston, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said “freedom of expression is now under daily threat by Hun Sen and his minions”.

“Pro-government trolls are especially on the look out for critical commentary on Facebook and other online forums because that is the one source of information that the government can’t fully control,” he wrote in an email, calling on the international community to “publicly denounce these tactics” and decline to recognise this year’s election “charade”.

Paul Chambers, a lecturer at Naresuan University in Thailand, said for years the Cambodian government has made threats against government critics who use social media or other means to express their opinions, “but since last year, astride intensifying authoritarianism, Cambodia has entered a growing climate of fear”.

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • Gov’t approves $9B worth of building projects in 2019

    The government has approved more than $9 billion this year for capital investment in the construction sector, a nearly 80 per cent increase on last year, with most of the growth coming from projects in Sihanoukville, according to Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea

  • PP residents urged to use public transport

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol has urged Phnom Penh residents to use the capital’s existing public transport services rather than private vehicles, as it is leading to increased traffic congestion. He also called for the city’s public bus system to

  • Kingdom calls on Japan to increase number of direct flights to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh

    Cambodia is requesting Japan to increase the number of direct flights from Japanese cities and provinces to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, so as to contribute to increasing cooperation and tourist numbers between the two countries. During the opening ceremony of 3rd Japan Travel Fair

  • Sierra Leone potential new market for export of Cambodian milled rice

    Sierra Leone plans to import milled rice from Cambodia for domestic consumption. The request was made when the visiting Sierra Leone Ambassador to China Ernest Ndomahina met Cambodian Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak on Wednesday at the ministry. Ndomahina said his country’s agricultural sector