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Phnom Penh court releases social media celebrity Pheng Vannak

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Social media celebrity Lieutenant Colonel Pheng Vannak (centre) was escorted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on February 4. Vannak is set to be released, a court spokesperson said on Monday. Hong Menea

Phnom Penh court releases social media celebrity Pheng Vannak

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court is set to release social media celebrity Lieutenant Colonel Pheng Vannak on Tuesday after serving more than two months in pre-trial detention, Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Suos Vichearandy told The Post on Monday.

Vannak had been sued by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s lawyer and Cambodian Youth Party president Pich Sros for outspoken comments he made in March.

Vichearandy said the court on Monday sentenced Vannak to one year in prison, with all but two months and 15 days suspended, and fined him six million riel ($1,468).

Cambodian Youth Party president Pich Sros filed a lawsuit against Vannak on March 29 after he brought $5,000 from the father of hit-and-run driver Yin Khun Mey – who had killed promising young university student Dum Rida in Phnom Penh on March 26 – to the family of the victim.

Sros alleged Vannak’s actions amounted to corruption.

On April 1, Vannak was also sued by Ky Tech, Hun Sen’s lawyer, and was subsequently arrested on April 2 after a comment on Facebook regarding the death of slain activist Kem Ley was deemed “incitement”.

Tech said in his complaint that Vannak had “ill intentions” in using social media to spread information publicly to defame Hun Sen in a March 29 Facebook post.

The post read: “Lim Chea Yutha, CEO of Fresh News, and the representative of the leader [Hun Sen] brought $50,000 to give to Dr Kem Ley’s family in order to build a stupa.

“Why didn’t senior minister Pich Sros file a complaint to the Anti-Corruption Unit? What is the difference when both [of us] brought other people’s money [for a good cause]?”

“How about Hun Sen asking people to bring money to the funeral of Kem Ley?” he asked.

Tech wrote in his complaint: “There is a clear plan and ill intention in making such a comparison. The intention is to put the blame on Hun Sen, saying he was the killer of Kem Ley.”

He said such words were written with the intention to confuse the public and allude blame to Hun Sen and that there were comments on Vannak’s Facebook post in which confused people had suggested Hun Sen was Ley’s killer.

On June 11, Vannak wrote a letter to Hun Sen to confess his guilt and apologise. He expressed his regret for his “improper act” and claimed it had resulted from his fiery temper which had made him forget to properly consider his actions.

“I will always remember this guilt and I promise I will change my attitude and my words and I will not allow this to happen again,” he wrote.

At his hearing, which began on Friday, Vannak admitted he was guilty and said he was prepared to write a letter of apology to Fresh News.

On Monday, while sentencing Vannak – and allowing him to walk free on Tuesday – the court also ordered him to pay compensation of 200 riel to Fresh News.


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