A young musician has deleted from Facebook and YouTube a rap song that was critical of Cambodia’s social issues and announced that he will stop singing the song after officials visited his home in Siem Reap province and allegedly gave him a warning.
Provincial authorities have been searching for the rapper since the song – Sangkum Nis, which translates as This Society – went viral on social media on May 13.
Civil society groups have said that if there were threats, it demonstrates a restriction of citizens’ rights and freedom of expression.
The song was written by Chhun Dymey, 24 – also known as Dymey-Cambo, or Lifetime Khmer – who is a year-one information technology student.
The song listed numerous alleged social injustices including corruption, poor people’s suffering, land disputes, shooting to kill and the oppression of innocent people.
It urged young people to “wake up, wipe away the tears and move forward”.
Dymey told The Post on Sunday that he had deleted the song after officials arrived at his parents’ home in Kokchak commune.
He said he didn’t want the issue to drag on and he had concerns for his personal safety and that of his family.
“I’ve deleted the song, and I’ll stop singing it in order to de-escalate the matter. I will stop composing such songs and turn to write sentimental songs that encourage the younger generation to love and unite in solidarity with one another."
“Now that I’ve deleted the song, I want to get back to normal and I hope the fuss about it will go quiet. If my song is seen as problematic, I would like to stop this problem,” Dymey said.
Suos Narin, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said on Sunday that he would investigate the case to see whether there was a ban or threats made.
If there were, he said, it shows that Cambodians’ freedom of expression is being muzzled.
“The song doesn’t have any bad intentions. It just shows the reality of how society needs to improve. It’s not about politics. This act will ensure our youth never dare to speak out and, if they do, they face dangerous consequences,” Narin said.
Besides pointing out injustices, land disputes and the mistreatment of innocent people, the song also alludes to negative emotions everywhere – such as people screaming and their tears streaming to the ground.
In the song, people raise their hands in a salute, begging the powerful to stop mistreating innocent Cambodians.
Provincial police chief Tith Narong told The Post that the authorities had taken action because the song had damaged the government’s image. Measures had been taken to prevent the song from getting further publicity on social media, he said.
“I don’t personally know about the case, but he sings in Kokchak commune and the song went viral on YouTube and it affects the government’s image."
“But I do not know how exactly it affects the government because I didn’t listen to the song. Military Police personnel questioned him. So, for more details please contact the Military Police,” he said.
Provincial Military Police crime bureau chief Uy Choy said he was unaware of the case, and commune police chief Rin Mon did not answer the phone.
However, deputy commune police chief Long Socheat told The Post on Sunday that he had also received information that Military Police personnel made enquiries at Dymey’s home, but he could not elaborate further.
“As far as I heard, several Military Police personnel went without any senior leadership. I am also trying to find out so I cannot say clearly because I haven’t yet been to the young man’s house,” he said.
Lawyer Ly Chantola said that under Cambodian law, and especially the Criminal Code, it all depends on the content of the song.
If the song intends to cause discrimination and incite listeners to unlawful activity, then clearly measures should be taken, Chantola said.
Dymey told The Post that his song was not motivated by any organised group, it was borne out of his own thoughts and feelings.
Having seen suffering and injustice with his own eyes, he said, he was inspired to compose the song to awaken people and remind young people to listen to the pain of citizens who are treated unfairly.