Lecturer Ordered to Prison on ‘Disinformation’

Phnom Penh Municipal Court sent a 30-year-old university lecturer, who is believed to suffer from mental problems, to Prey Sar prison Wed­nes­day after charging him with dis­information, officials said.

Tieng Narith, who was fired last month for teaching his own anti-government textbook at Phnom Penh’s Si­hanouk Raja Buddhist University, was handcuffed and hurried into a mi­li­tary police vehicle after being ques­tioned by Investigating Judge Sao Meach, as his 54-year-old mother Kong Saphorn wept outside.

“Please find justice for me,” she shouted. “My son didn’t commit anything wrong.”

Under the Untac Law, spreading dis­information carries prison sentences of between six months and three years.

Lawyers representing Tieng Na­rith said the government filed the com­­plaint against him. Cambodian Cen­ter for Human Rights lawyer So In said his client, who was arrested Tues­day, had been charged by Pros­­ecutor Ouk Savouth. He added that his client answered the judge “under the situation of hav­ing mental problems.”

In his profanity-laced book, Tieng Narith links top government officials to acts of political violence, and ec­hoes recent statements by fugitive former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov.

Cambodian Defenders Project lawyer Hong Kimsoun also said his client may be unwell. “If he is not nor­mal, the court should have investigated first before arresting him,” he said.

Government spokesman and In­form­ation Minister Khieu Kanharith said he did not know who in the gov­ernment had initiated the lawsuit. He added that Tieng Narith may receive a punishment reduction if he is mentally ill.

Sao Meach and Ouk Savouth both said they were too busy to speak to a reporter.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cam­bodia Independent Teachers’ As­sociation, accused the government of violating Tieng Narith’s freedom of expression. Tieng Narith should have been invited to run corrections on false information rather than being arrested, he said.

He also said the lecturer appears to have touched a nerve. “The things that were written are the weak and sensitive parts of the government,” he said.

 

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