Labor Activist on the Run After Hurling Sandal at CPP Sign

A labor activist has been issued a court summons for the alleged crimes of insulting an elected official and inciting discrimination after she was captured in a viral Facebook video throwing a sandal at a CPP sign bearing the pictures of Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

The summons, issued on Saturday by the Kompong Speu Provincial Court, demands 38-year-old Sam Sokha, a resident of Chbar Mon City’s Svay Kravan commune, appear for questioning.

“We don’t discriminate between political parties,” provincial governor Vey Samnang said on Sunday. “As long as it causes discrimination [she] has to be jailed according to the law.”

The incitement charge carries a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of up to 6 million riel, or about $1,500, for speech that encourages maliciousness against “a particular ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” but makes no mention of political parties. The insult charge carries a maximum six-day prison sentence and a fine of 100,000 riel, or about $25, for insults against a public office holder.

The 13-second video clip depicts Ms. Sokha looking back at the camera before throwing a sandal at a CPP sign on the side of a road, whacking Mr. Hun Sen’s, face before she catches the shoe and tosses it at the image of Mr. Samrin. It is unclear to which Facebook account the video was originally posted, but it was widely shared across the site over the weekend.

“They even came here to destroy the nation,” Ms. Sokha says in the clip, using a derogatory pronoun in Khmer.

Mr. Samnang said Ms. Sokha works in a factory in Kompong Speu province where her husband runs a telephone shop. Ms. Sokha is well-known in the region for her active involvement in protesting with factory workers, he said.

“That woman is an activist who burns tires,” he said.

Now she is nowhere to be found.

“It’s not clear where she has gone,” Mr. Samnang said. “Her house is locked and [her husband’s] business is also closed.”

Chea Mony, former head of the Free Trade Union (FTU), said he had met Ms. Sokha on several occasions and believed she suffered a blow last year when she was fired from the Hong Kong-owned Serey garment factory after leading protests against management.

Mr. Mony said he believed Ms. Sokha may suffer from mental illness because she often appeared to be unable to control her temper. He criticized the government for pursuing the case.

“In general, when people criticize [the government], the ruling party always arrests and jails them,” he said. “The court doesn’t do an investigation. It jails people using only police reports.”

Facebook commentators also linked Ms. Sokha to CNRP lawmaker Real Camerin after a photograph surfaced showing the pair standing together.

Mr. Camerin said on Sunday he had met Ms. Sokha once, at a memorial in January for Mr. Mony’s brother and founder of the FTU, Chea Vichea, who was gunned down in January 2004, and had posed for the photo with her there.

“I did not know her personally. She’s just my supporter,” he said over Facebook Messenger.

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