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Sovantha’s NGO ‘violating law’

A crowd listens to Thy Sovantha speak during an event in Prey Veng province earlier this month where she spoke unfavourably of opposition party leaders Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy. Facebook
A crowd listens to Thy Sovantha speak during an event in Prey Veng province earlier this month where she spoke unfavourably of opposition party leaders Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy. Facebook

Sovantha’s NGO ‘violating law’

A student group has called on Interior Minister Sar Kheng to take action against social media celebrity Thy Sovantha for using public forums under the guise of her NGO to launch attacks on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

In a letter, the Federation of Cambodia Intellectuals and Students argues Sovantha’s actions breach the NGO Law, which has been used to threaten groups critical of the government.

Article 24 of the law, passed amid widespread criticism in July 2015, states that NGOs must “maintain their neutrality towards political parties in the Kingdom”. The Federation notes Sovantha, via her Social Youth Affairs NGO, regularly holds public events that devolve into attacks on the CNRP and its members.

“Her activity seems to be for her political benefit only, she does not serve as president for a social NGO,” said the group’s president Leng Seng Hong, via telephone yesterday.

“This is against the NGO Law, which mentions that all activity of NGOs must not show discrimination, or service to, a political party.

“Her activity at public forums, which gather many residents, always attacks one side in terms of political parties.”

Sovantha rose to prominence as an anti-government activist aligned with the CNRP, though she has since turned her guns on the opposition following a falling out.

In the past eight months, she has held 27 “forums” across the country, where she has been publicly critical of the CNRP, particularly its deputy leader Kem Sokha, whom she has sued for defamation.

Responding yesterday, Sovantha dismissed the suggestion that her NGO was simply a vehicle to push politics, saying she had provided English-language lessons and built infrastructure such as wells.

The public forums, she said, informed residents about the “situation of Cambodia”.

“I have not done anything wrong,” Sovantha said.

“All citizens have the rights to participate and give speeches about politics. The residents who join my public forums, they question me about the current situation in Cambodia. That’s why I tell them about it and talk about Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy. I attack them as an individual.”

Reached yesterday, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak confirmed that the ministry had received the Federation’s letter. “We are examining this case; we have not reached a result yet,” Sopheak said.

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