A restaurant manager who was jailed in September over a Facebook comment in which he threatened to bomb a graduation ceremony presided over by Interior Minister Sar Kheng was released from the Siem Reap Provincial Prison on Friday.
Tao Savoeun, 26, was convicted earlier this month of making a death threat, but had his 15-month sentence reduced to one month by Judge Chhun Chanseiha, who said he had factored in the defendant’s claim that he never intended to carry out an attack as well as his public apology to Mr. Kheng.
According to police, Mr. Savoeun said his comment was made out of frustration because the University of South-East Asia repeatedly changed the date of its graduation ceremony, forcing him to alter his work schedule.
Commenting on a friend’s post announcing another schedule change, Mr. Savoeun wrote: “When Samdech Kralahorm [Mr. Kheng] distributes certificates, I will throw a bomb to kill everyone,” according to police.
University administrators alerted police to the comment after the graduation, sparking an investigation that quickly led to Mr. Savoeun’s arrest. Sien Sovanna, the university’s rector, said following the arrest that the school had warned graduates against making critical comments online.
“We asked them to be quiet and not use words on social media that affect the university or government,” Mr. Sovanna said at the time. “Only a mentally ill person would write this.”
After being released from prison on Friday, Mr. Savoeun said that he was grateful to be released, adding that the sarcastic comment would never have landed him in jail if the university had not reported him.
“I wrote that, but I did not know I could be imprisoned because I was just joking on my friend’s Facebook page,” he said. “I think that if my school had not given the information to the police, police would not have known about my comment.”
“I am very happy to leave prison,” he said, adding that he would now begin searching for work after losing his previous job due to his arrest and prosecution.
“I will stop writing jokes like this,” he added.
Mr. Savoeun’s case is among a recent spate of arrests and criminal actions over posts to Facebook.
A university student was arrested in August and is currently awaiting trial over charges of incitement for a Facebook post in which he called for people to join him in a “color revolution.”
An opposition senator, Hong Sok Hour, has also been in jail for over two months after being accused of treason for posting a video to Facebook that contained an image of a fake border treaty.
His trial is ongoing.