A Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor has requested the court put a popular social media user in pre-trial detention for ignoring a summons related to a defamation and “incitement” suit filed by fellow social media celebrity Thy Sovantha.
The Facebook user Sok Sovanvathana Sarapong, widely known as William Guang, can be put into pre-trial detention if directed by a Phnom Penh judge. The preliminary charges against him include defamation and incitement to discriminate, with the latter carrying a prison sentence of up to three years.
Documents from the prosecutor’s office show that Sovantha filed the suit on December 4, taking offence to Facebook posts from Sovanvathana Sarapong, which included him calling her an “evil person”, “a student who escaped her exams” and that “she deserved to be hit with a shoe”.
Sovanvathana Sarapong on Tuesday said he had received two summonses, asking for a delay because he was overseas. But he said Prosecutor Soeun Monyrath had ended the investigation, recommending arrest.
“She is a public figure and anybody can constructively criticise her,” he said, referring to an NGO she runs and her high-profile membership in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. He added that if he were to be arrested it would be based on illegal procedures from the prosecutor.
Sovantha has shown a proclivity for filing defamation cases against political leaders and social media users, especially those from the opposition. While she was aligned with the opposition during the 2013 elections, her relationship soured with the Cambodia National Rescue Party owing to her cosying up to Prime Minister Hun Sen and his party.