Death Threat Made Against CNRP’s Social Media Activist

Thy Sovantha is accustomed to being threatened on Facebook.

But the 19-year-old CNRP youth activist, who became something of an online celebrity through the popular opposition Facebook page “I Love Cambodia Hot News,” says the latest threat against her, in which a copy of her passport application was published online along with warnings of an acid attack, is different.

Ms. Sovantha alleged Wednesday that the Ministry of Interior’s passport office, which is staffed by immigration police, leaked her passport application documents, containing the names of Ms. Sovantha’s relatives, her home address and personal phone numbers.

“I have received many threats to my life through phone calls and Facebook, but it doesn’t bother me,” she said in an interview.

“This time is more serious because it affects members of my family,” she said.

“This document, which was to be kept confidential, has been leaked by officials at the Interior Ministry,” she said.

A copy of Ms. Sovantha’s official passport application, dated

January 6, has been widely shared and commented on since it was posted online Tuesday by a Facebook user named Chea Sovannary.

Ms. Sovantha’s application form was posted on Facebook along with a message warning that it was only a matter of time before she is attacked with acid.

“This prostitute dares not to sleep at home,” the Facebook user wrote, referring to Ms. Sovantha. “There are many youth who are looking for this prostitute to take action [against her] because she has cursed youths who are not supporting [the CNRP], calling them Yuon.”

“It seems this prostitute Thy Sovantha is unable to escape being attacked with acid in a few days because they know [her] address,” the commentator continued.

“Do not douse acid on its [Ms. Sovantha’s] face but pour on its head,” the writer continues, instructing people to also burn Ms. Sovantha’s car, a white Lexus SUV.

Ms. Sovantha, who has found online fame with her fiery political rhetoric, often delivered in selfie videos shot with her smartphone at CNRP rallies and protests, said she would file a complaint this week with the Ministry of Interior for the role police officials had played in leaking her confidential document.

“My complaint is to ask [CPP Interior Minister] Sar Kheng to find those who have leaked my document and prosecute them, especially the passport department, which is under the Ministry of Interior,” she said. “Sar Kheng must be responsible for my safety and my family’s safety.”

“After the document detailing my address, my relatives and I have received a lot of intimidation,” she added.

Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, questioned whether staff at the passport officer were responsible for disseminating the application form of the CNRP activist.

“I can say that [maybe] Thy Sovantha’s document is not only in the passport department, maybe she put it somewhere else and people take it to post on Facebook,” he said.

Even if Ms. Sovantha files a complaint, it is unlikely that the ministry will be able to do anything, Lt. Gen. Sopheak continued.

“After we get a complaint…it will be difficult to investigate who [the Facebook page] belongs to and where [the document] come from,” Lt. Gen. Sopheak said.

“If it is on the Facebook page of someone, it is difficult to identify them,” he said, adding that it would require extraordinary measures such as cooperating with Facebook headquarters in the U.S. to track down electronic signatures.

The government, however, has on at least two occasions shown itself to be highly responsive to complaints about members of the armed forces posted to Facebook.

In November, Cheth Sovichet, 23, a marketing manager for mobile operator Cellcard, was briefly detained in Stung Treng province after he posted a photograph of the provincial military police commander to his Facebook page along with comments claiming that the officer was a foul-mouthed extortionist.

Mr. Sovichet was released without charge by the provincial court after promising to remove and publicly apologize for the Facebook comments.

In February, police in Phnom Penh also summoned for questioning a schoolteacher who they accused of defaming officers in a post on Facebook that suggested police were out to extort money when they confiscated his motorcycle. The teacher apologized for the post, and was not charged.

Ms. Sovantha’s social media work also caught the attention of a member of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit (PMBU) who was discovered in October with a pistol at a rally in Freedom Park attended by CNRP lawmakers.

An investigation of PMBU member Poeurng Choeurn’s online presence later turned up pictures he had taken of activist monks and journalists at opposition party demonstrations, as well as what appeared to be three covertly taken photographs of Ms. Sovantha.

(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)

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