An anti-government activist has been imprisoned over a social media post in which he called for people in Cambodia to join him in a “colour revolution”, though critics of the arrest say he enjoys no political influence.
Kong Raiya, 25, was captured on Thursday outside Phnom Penh’s Khemarak University, where he was about to sit his foundation year final exam, and taken to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning over a statement he had published on August 7.
“Who dares to launch the colour revolution with me? Someday in the future, I will launch the colour revolution in order to change the cheap regime running Cambodian society; even if I am sent to the prison or die, I am determined to do it”, Raiya wrote in a Facebook status under the name “Soriya Koko”.
After being questioned, he was sent to Prey Sar prison on Friday, where he awaits trial.
Interior Ministry Central Security official Teang Sarat refused to clarify what Raiya is set to be charged with.
“If you want to know about the law, please ask the court”, he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge Leang Samnat, who is overseeing the case, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
According to Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator at rights group Licadho, after authorities found there was no specific charge related to attempting to launch a colour revolution, they elected to prosecute him under Articles 494 and 495 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code Article 494 relates to publicly spoken or published provocation to commit crimes, while Article 495 relates to “direct provocation to commit a felony”.
“He is not popular and has no ability to lead the people in revolt, and the government would never let that happen,” said Sam Ath. “So it is just the expression of an idea, and that is not a crime.”
Raiya’s mother, Horn Sophat, was similarly quick to criticise the legal proceedings.
“He is just a freshman at university, he has no means to fight a revolution; he just expressed his individual feelings about what he sees as irregularities in society,” she said yesterday.
The arrest comes just a month after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned of a possible “colour revolution” in a speech to police officials at the headquarters of the premier’s bodyguard unit in Kandal’s Takhmao town.
“The armed forces must be loyal to the government and have to prevent any act of colour revolution,” a source quoted him as saying.
So-called colour revolutions, seen in Asia and the former Soviet republics since the 1980s, are notable for the important role of student activists in organising non-violent resistance to demand greater democratic freedom from repressive regimes.