The Interior Ministry’s Anti-Terrorism Department yesterday opened an investigation into Facebook posts on the page of a Preah Sihanouk province man threatening to shoot Prime Minister Hun Sen in the head.
Casino driver Pich Roth Tha’s first post, which went viral on Wednesday, featured a selfie next to a picture of a handgun. Addressing the prime minister directly, it said: “Hun Sen, you kill too many Khmer [people], it will not be long before you will be dead by my hand.”
A second post announced Roth Tha’s intention to shoot Hun Sen in the head.
Early yesterday morning, Roth Tha turned himself in to provincial police, claiming that an unknown person hacked his Facebook account to post the threatening rhetoric. The posts have since disappeared from Roth Tha’s profile.
“We cannot make a conclusion because we do not have [the] technology, and we sent him to Phnom Penh for questioning at the Anti-Terrorism Department,” said Preah Sihanouk Deputy Provincial Police Chief San Bunthon.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith confirmed the man was being interrogated, but maintained “it does not mean we arrested him”.
“We are questioning him, and we have not finished the questioning yet, and continue to do it because he had came to our police to clarify the case,” he said.
It would not be the first time an individual faced legal trouble for posting threatening messages on Facebook. In 2015, a university graduate wrote a post threatening to detonate a bomb at a graduation ceremony presided over by Interior Minister Sar Kheng. Sentenced to 15 months in prison, the man spent only one month in jail after apologising to Kheng.
Article 41 of the Cambodian Constitution forbids speech that infringes upon the rights of others or threatens “to violate public law and order and national security”.
While condemning the violent speech, rights observers argued such posts were not worthy of prosecution.
“This might go beyond the scope of legitimately protected freedoms, [but] he should be given a chance to apologise and rectify his alleged threats,” Cambodian Center for Human Rights Advocacy Director Piseth Duch said in a message.
Licadho’s director of advocacy, Naly Pilorge, pointed out that violent speech – often used by high-ranking government officials themselves – infects all levels of society.
“I do not know the circumstances of this case but I question as to why nothing happens to politicians who threaten to smash teeth of protesters and kill 100-200 [people],” Pilorge said in a message, referring to Defence Minister Tea Banh and Hun Sen’s violent rhetoric during the commune election season. “Are there different kinds of justice depending on social or economic status of the persons involved?”