Kidnapping Rumors Prompt Second Arrest, Reprimand From PM

Prime Minister Hun Sen made an appeal to Facebook users to “not create problems” as nationwide child-snatching hysteria led to another arrest on Tuesday, this of a man whom Takeo provincial police had earlier questioned for allegedly posting that Vietnamese men were attempting to kidnap a child.

Deputy Takeo provincial police chief Chhun Sareth identified the man as Ly

Chhaya, 33, a civil engineer from Prey Veng province living with his wife in Khvav commune of Takeo’s Samraong district. He had been questioned by police on Monday.

In a video he posted to his Facebook page, Mr. Chhaya says two Vietnamese men had chased his wife’s niece—a claim the girl and her mother later denied, according to Samraong district police chief Moueng Sarun.

Mr. Chhaya also criticized authorities for saying the kidnapping rumors were false and encouraged further investigation.

The rumors, repeatedly denied by police, have proven so persistent that Mr. Hun Sen addressed the problem at a speech during a graduation ceremony on Tuesday.

“In the past few days, lots of problems were created, endless issues. What benefit comes from posting issues about children being kidnapped to have their kidneys cut out, cutting out this, cutting out that?” the premier asked. “It is not true.”

“I would like to take this opportunity here to appeal to the youths, especially those who use Facebook: Please don’t create problems, [or] generate danger for the nation through the poisoning of the [social] environment,” he said.

Rumors of child snatching, often accompanied by claims of Vietnamese suspects or organ harvesting, have racked up tens of thousands of shares on Facebook, despite authorities’ efforts to quash the trend.

Mr. Chhaya’s arrest comes on the heels of a similar arrest in Kompong Thom province.

CNRP activist Nay Sineng was arrested on Sunday and charged with “communication or disclosure of false information” after he posted on Facebook on Saturday claiming three Vietnamese men were suspected of kidnapping children to harvest their organs. Earlier that day, a mob of 1,000 stormed a police station and beat two suspects unconscious out of false fears that the pair were being held over a kidnapping.

Cheam Channy, a CNRP lawmaker from Kompong Thom, said the arrest was politically motivated, while CPP spokesman Sok Eysan accused a single group of masterminding the rumors to diminish the CPP’s leadership.

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith on Monday said police also suspected a group was behind the rumors. He said officers had investigated 15 kidnapping cases in the past 20 days, only one of which turned out to be an actual kidnapping, and found no organ harvesting.

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