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Officials: Facebook audio on mask fines ‘fake news’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Motorists​​ wearing masks commute in Chak Angre Leu commune, Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Thursday. Hean Rangsey

Officials: Facebook audio on mask fines ‘fake news’

The Phnom Penh municipal police are searching for the person responsible for a recorded audio message posted to Facebook saying that traffic policemen in Prek Leap commune in the Phnom Penh capital’s Chroy Changvar district had fined a passenger 200,000 riel for not wearing a mask.

The Ministry of Justice said no fines of any sort related to the Covid-19 law and sub-decree had been issued by any police at this point in time. The audio message has been shared widely on Facebook.

“Seyha, your brother drove to Vanna’s house in Prek Leap without a mask on in defiance of the law and he was fined 200,000 riel by the police. I told your father to wear a mask. Watch out for 200,000 riel fines if you don’t! But your father wouldn’t listen and didn’t wear a mask and now he’s been fined 200,000 riel,” the message said.

After the message was shared widely the Phnom Penh municipal police briefly told The Post on March 18 that they are searching for the person responsible for it.

Justice ministry spokesman Chin Malin told The Post that the audio message didn’t have a clear source and the police are still searching for the speaker and if what that person said isn’t true, they will face charges for it.

“He said that some police fined a citizen for not wearing a mask while driving in Chroy Changvar, but we don’t know who was fined or who said it. We don’t know which road it supposedly was on or which police officer supposedly fined them. If anyone has any actual information on this incident, please report it to us so we can look into it,” Malin said.

He said that what he was seeing on the topic wasn’t from any credible sources and that currently there were countless online sources fabricating and exaggerating information to profit off of social chaos.

Malin further explained that the health ministry had already instructed the public via Facebook that the fines for not wearing a mask are not general but only in those places where the ministry has mandated that masks be worn.

He said that the health ministry would make an announcement soon about where exactly the police will be imposing fines on those who don’t wear masks.

“If they don’t wear masks in the places that the ministry mandates, the first measure is to warn them and instruct them. If they still don’t follow the warning and instruction, they will then be fined,” he explained.

He said that no individuals had been punished or fined yet for any of the offenses outlined in the recent Covid sub-decree.

Malin said he regarded the audio message as a form of false news that was spread with an ill intent to cause chaos or undermine the government’s efforts to contain Covid-19.

The Kingdom’s acting head of state, Senate president Say Chhum, promulgated the Law on Measures to Prevent the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Serious, Dangerous and Contagious Diseases on March 16.

Articles 5 and 19 of the sub-decree state that individuals who fail to wear masks in high-risk places as determined by the health ministry will be fined between 200,000 and one million riel, after being given one warning.

The law also prescribed fines and other penalties for other Covid-19 related offenses, including prison sentences for serious crimes like escaping from quarantine.


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