Police Investigate Death Threat Against Border Researcher

Police are investigating a death threat made via Facebook over the weekend to “shoot the head of Sok Touch,” a high-profile academic conducting research into the government’s politically fraught work demarcating Cambodia’s border with Vietnam.

Posted to Mr. Touch’s Facebook page from the account of Sey Hu on Saturday, the message is accompanied by a photograph of a pistol laid down next to 10 neatly arranged bullets. The text below reads: “The gun is being kept to shoot the head of Sok Touch, the doctor with the dog brain, the doctor who changes history, the doctor who sold his brain to the Yuon,” a term for Vietnamese that can be considered derogatory.

Sok Touch speaks at the CNRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh on August 10, during a ceremony in which the opposition party handed over its border maps. (Siv Channa/ The Cambodia Daily)
Sok Touch speaks at the CNRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh on August 10, during a ceremony in which the opposition party handed over its border maps. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Touch, who has a Ph.D., heads the international relations institute at the state-run Royal Academy of Cambodia and was tasked by the government earlier this month with studying the maps being used to demarcate the Vietnamese border amid mounting claims by the opposition CNRP that the ruling CPP was ceding territory to Vietnam.

Since taking up the task, his public comments on the matter have been in line with the government’s claims that its work on the border has been beyond reproach.

On Sunday, Mr. Touch said he also received the threat via the Internet messaging service Viber on Saturday. He said he had received a few threats through Viber in the past month, but that Saturday’s was the most serious.

“Since I started working on the border issue, some people have threatened to kill me a few times. But I was not concerned about the threats because they just threatened me through Viber,” he said. “But I think the threat this time is very serious for me because they posted a picture of a gun and bullets.”

“I think the threats probably involve a group of people because they cannot resist me by using the law,” he added. “These people have threatened me because they want me to walk away from my research on the border.”

Mr. Touch said he was outside of Phnom Penh, but declined to specify where.

He said the threats would not deter his work.

“I am not worried about the threats because I have done nothing wrong; I do everything for the nation,” he said. “I will not hesitate to continue the research, and I am determined to find the truth about the government’s work.”

Mr. Touch said he had not filed a complaint with police, but that officers came to question him anyway after learning about the threats through local media.

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith declined to comment on its progress investigating the threats.

“Our authorities already received information about the threats to kill Mr. Sok Touch and we are investigating the case,” he said.

Sey Hu’s Facebook page states that he is an engineering student at Sripatum University in Bangkok. A message requesting comment went unanswered.

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