A man who caused a furore on Facebook with a video tirade against the Khmer race after being hit on the head in front of the Royal Palace was charged with incitement to discriminate by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday.
Yin Heng was driving his motorbike on Monday when one of three men following him on another motorbike punched him several times on the top of the head.
Immediately afterwards, Heng posted a video of himself, with the palace in the background and a bump on his head, denigrating all Khmer people in an inflammatory rant that subsequently went viral.
He was charged under Articles 494 and 496 of the Criminal Code and the investigating judge sent him to Prey Sar prison for pre-trial detention, said deputy persecutor Ly Sophana.
Ministry of Interior anti-cybercrime department director Chea Pov told The Post that the arrest was made on the order of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng and Phnom Penh municipal police chief Sar Thet.
Pov said that after receiving the order from higher authorities, his police team collaborated with other units to launch an investigation, eventually leading to his arrest.
Although Heng is gay, it is unknown whether his assault was homophobically motivated. His Facebook post made him an internet sensation, and he was given the nickname, “Champei Khmao” or “Black Frangipani”.
Heng said in his video: “I was riding my motorbike by myself. However, three people riding a motorbike behind me hit me hard on my head.
“I don’t understand. Did I do something wrong? I tried to remain calm. My head was hurt. Now there is a huge bump on my head. They were truly Khmer people – Khmer blood. Khmers are like animals. Khmers are bad."
“Why did you do this to me. What have I ever done to you? You will be destroyed – not by other people, but by yourselves. It’s fitting that the Khmer Empire lost its territory. You will be burned and destroyed. If Khmers lose even more territory, it is even better.”
On Tuesday, Heng posted another video to apologise to all Cambodian people. “After further thinking, I know that I was wrong to use degrading language about Cambodia and Cambodian people.
“I just wanted to express my overwhelming feelings, because I was very angry at the time because three people, riding on a motorbike, hit me on my head. Right now, my head has a huge bump on it."
“It was not a good feeling. You have never felt what it’s like being bashed on the head. I was overwhelmed. I was so upset. My body was shaking."
“My head is not a dog’s head. You can beat me anytime you want. You can blame or sue me, but you need to find and punish the people who hit my head,” he said.
Facebook users who shared the videos said insulting the Khmer race is equivalent to insulting Cambodian people and the country in general.
Article 496 of the Criminal Code describes incitement to discriminate as “The direct incitement . . . to discriminate, to be malicious or violent against a person or a group of persons because of their membership or non-membership of a particular ethnicity, nationality, race or religion”.
The offence is punishable by imprisonment from one to three years and a fine of two to six million riel.