Offensive Image of King Sparks Investigation

The government is searching for a Facebook user who posted a Photoshopped image with King Norodom Sihamoni’s head inserted into a gay pornographic scene along with the message “Cambodia King is gay.”

Apparently posted online by a Thai-speaking Facebook user, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the government might ask Thai authorities to help with the case.

“We are searching its IP, where it’s from. If we cannot find it we will ask our neighboring country to help,” he said of Thailand, which has seen increasingly strict enforcement of lese majeste laws since the junta took power in 2014.

“They are more intense than us,” General Sopheak said of insults directed at the monarchy.

Gen. Sopheak said the investigation was launched without a complaint, contradicting his own reasoning for not investigating online death threats against deputy CNRP leader Kem Sokha earlier this month, which he said required a complaint to investigate. He said it was the government’s duty to defend the king against such blasphemy.

“The king is like our parents,” he said. “Let’s imagine if someone took your parents’ photo to do like this, would you be angry?”

According to the Constitution, the king is “inviolable,” giving him unique protection from insults or criticism—though it has rarely led to legal cases.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a former secretary for the king who is now an official with the opposition CNRP, said the government should have waited for a complaint from the Ministry of the Royal Palace to open an official probe.

However, he said he supported the investigation. “Sexual preferences should be left private, so I think it’s a violation and I would support an investigation—for any individual not only the king,” he said. “It is a matter of honor and dignity.”

King Sihamoni remains unmarried. His late father, former King Norodom Sihanouk, who had at least 14 children with 5 different women, once noted publicly that his son “loves women as his sisters.”

(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)

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