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Rights group laments online speech arrests

A person browses a social media website at an internet cafe in Phnom Penh earlier this year.
A person browses a social media website at an internet cafe in Phnom Penh earlier this year. Hong Menea

Rights group laments online speech arrests

Citing the government’s increased policing of the internet, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights called for those who have been wrongfully detained over online comments to be immediately released in a new report.

The report, issued late last week, says that since August 2015, at least seven people have been arrested for online comments, and at least 23 additional individuals have been publicly threatened based on views expressed on social media.

CCHR wants to draw attention to both the overall trend as well as the distinctions between certain cases, said Pat de Brun, legal consultant for CCHR.

“In some cases we have completely harmless comments, and in other cases, the comments do merit an investigation,” Brun said. “We want the debate to be open about how the judiciary is treating these cases.”

The opposition have accused the government of a double standard, saying threats against its members aren’t investigated as speedily as those against ruling party officials.

According to the CCHR study, while the internet has become a medium for political debate, the royal Cambodian government has “increased its capacity to monitor content posted online, increasing the likelihood of those who are perceived to oppose government interests being judicially harassed”.

The report provides seven recommendations for the government to consider, including for officials to scrap the contentious cybercrime law, whose status remains uncertain.

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