Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport secretary of state Sar Sokha denied an allegation on Monday which implicates him in illegal online gambling operations. He also requested the police intervene by taking immediate measures against those responsible for spreading the fake news.

His denial and condemnation were posted on his Facebook page on Monday. The post came attached with three separate intervention letters to National Police chief Neth Savoeun, Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Deputy Commander-in-chief Sao Sokha and General Immigration Department director-general Kirth Chantharith.

The letters requested the relevant law enforcement authorities investigate and take action against the persons found to be responsible.

“In the effective operation against illegal online gambling carried out recently, some nefarious persons have been using the names of individuals holding official positions [in the government].

“A handful of opportunists have also spread rumours to smear my name, saying that I am involved in the illegal activities behind the scenes,” he said.

Sokha believes the allegations and rumours are part of a strategy to promote the illegal business and create obstacles for law enforcement authorities.

He stressed that such acts are not an application of freedom of expression by law, rather it is a punishable criminal offence.

“I completely deny the allegation and strongly condemn the persons involved. I request the authorities please take the toughest action against them.

“I would like to encourage, support and request the authorities at all levels increase precautions and enforce the law according to the directive of Prime Minister Hun Sen, irrespective of who the suspects are.

“Using the names of the senior leadership in the government or their children affects their honour and dignity,” he said.

Savoeun said anyone who had used the name of another individual to carry out slanderous activities would have committed an illegal act.

“We will search for persons who exploit the name of others to carry out activities and then act in line with the law. In the case of Sar Sokha, National Police forces in collaboration with the Phnom Penh Municipal Police Headquarters are now searching for the offenders to be punished according to the law,” he said.

Chantharith said on Monday that he had yet to see Sokha’s letter requesting intervention because he was busy attending a full-day meeting.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police chief Sar Thet said National Police had handed over the case to police forces of the Ministry of Interior’s central security department to proceed with investigations.

“In the past, [Sar Sokha] heard there were rumours discrediting him. He has nothing to do with it. But some people are accusing him of involvement in a few cases.

“In previous crackdown operations on online gambling, we have never come across a case which boasted of having support from a certain power. We have always carried out law enforcement work according to standard procedures,” he said.