Police Accuse Teacher of Defamation Over Facebook Post

Police in Phnom Penh have summonsed for questioning a schoolteacher who they accuse of defaming officers in a post on the social networking site Facebook about the confiscation of his motorbike last month.

When Chamkar Mon district police stopped Phel Phearun last month for driving without a li­cense plate and impounded his motorcycle, the 29-year-old teach­er decided to publicize his experience on Face­book, complaining that the police had refused to let a friend drop off his ownership pa­pers to settle the matter right away, and had still impounded his motorbike overnight even after his friend brought the papers to the police station.

“Please watch out for the procedures of Chamkar Mon district police,” Mr. Phearun wrote on his Facebook page, posting a copy of the police order impounding his motorbike, which bore the name of one of the police officers involved.

Mr. Phearun’s unhappy run-in with the police quickly attracted 98 comments, most of them critical of way the municipal police operate, and some accusing law enforcement officers of holding the motorbike as a ploy for bribe money.

“The police will take spare parts from the confiscated motorbike,” one commentator on Face­book wrote.

On Saturday, a little over a month after he was stopped by po­lice, Mr. Phearun received a police summons for him to appear for questioning on Monday and accusing him of defamation, which is a crime in Cambodia.

Mr. Phearun also posted the po­lice summons, signed by Chamkar Mon deputy district po­lice chief Heang Thareth, onto his Facebook.

Mr. Thareth said that in­formation on Facebook had hurt the image of his department.

“After reading the article posted on his Facebook page, the information was written with the intention of defaming the police. It affects my reputation and my organization,” the deputy police chief said.

“If Mr. Phearun wants to further publicize the matter, I will consider filing a complaint in court.”

Mr. Phearun said he did not show up for the scheduled questioning because he was out of town on work, but sent his cousin and has asked to reschedule his questioning for March 18.

“My information was true about the fact that my motorbike was confiscated, and I am very concerned since defamation is a criminal offense,” Mr. Phearun said. “I didn’t defame the police because I posted the truth,” he added.

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