Facebook celebrity Lieutenant Colonel Pheng Vannak was released from prison on Monday evening after Phnom Penh Municipal Court handed down its verdict earlier in the day – sentencing him to one year in prison with all but two months and 15 days suspended.
That was the time Vannak had served in pre-trial detention, and hence, he was allowed to walk free on Monday.
He was convicted of inciting others to commit crimes and defaming public figures.
“We released him from prison at around 6pm on Monday,” the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons spokesperson Nuth Savna told The Post on Tuesday.
Vannak had been sued by a volunteer lawyer representing Prime Minister Hun Sen, and by another person, for his harsh online comments. And on April 2, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a warrant to arrest and detain him.
Sous Vichea Randy, deputy director of the administrative secretariat at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, told The Post that the court sentenced Vannak to one year’s imprisonment but allowed him free after serving two months and 15 days, with the remainder of his prison sentence suspended.
The court also ordered him to pay a total of six million riel ($1,470).
Vannak is not only a public figure known for his severe criticism of injustice in society which has been shared widely on Facebook, he was also a lieutenant colonel at the Ministry of National Defence before his imprisonment.
Ministry of National Defence spokesman Chum Socheat told The Post on Tuesday that Vannak is no longer serving at the ministry.
“It’s true that Pheng Vannak is no longer a military official after the court handed down a final verdict,” he said.
He said that in accordance with Ministry of National Defence rules, the ministry would revoke any position or titles from criminals to enable the courts to enforce the law, because, according to military law, soldiers cannot be punished without first having their positions revoked or with the permission of their military organisations.