Thy Sovantha Files ‘Incitement’ Complaint Against Publisher

Political activist Thy Sovantha on Monday filed a court complaint against a social media broadcaster for incitement to commit a felony over comments he made in a video streamed on Facebook, court documents show.

In a complaint submitted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Ms. Sovantha said the comments made by San Buntheoun in a video dated June 3—and watched more than 300,000 times since—amounted to “direct incitement to commit activities causing serious turmoil.”

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Thy Sovantha speaks to reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court February after being questioned over her lawsuit against opposition leader Sam Rainsy. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

A few days after Mr. Buntheoun’s video appeared online, Ms. Sovantha’s Lexus 570 luxury SUV was attacked by an unidentified person, her court complaint says.

According to the complaint and a short video clip posted to Ms. Sovantha’s Facebook page, Mr. Buntheoun told his viewers: “If you know she is a national traitor why don’t you take action against her? Thy Sovantha! Go together! Where is she driving to? Lexus 570! Surround her! Let’s do it!”

In 2013, Ms. Sovantha rose to prominence as a star opposition activist in the lead-up to the national election, but has since broken from the party.

Last year, she filed a defamation lawsuit against current CNRP President Kem Sokha over comments he allegedly made about her in leaked audio tapes, and earlier this month officially asked to join the ruling CPP.

Former supporters—particularly social media users—have been ruthless toward her, particularly on Facebook, where they have repeatedly made personal attacks and threats against her, including on comment threads accompanying news stories about her.

Ms. Sovantha said on Monday that she had given Mr. Buntheoun—as well as other aggressors—many chances to tone down their rhetoric.

“I don’t want to go to court. It wastes time and is useless, but Mr. San Buntheoun is so extreme. And from one day to the next, he becomes more and more provocative and he threatens my life,” she said.

Ms. Sovantha said she was monitoring about 200 others who were also twisting the news to attack her.

“I will wait and see whether they will correct themselves or not,” she said. “But next time…if those individuals still continue their bad behavior—[if they’re] still twisting, they’re still bad…or cause threats—then I will decide to file a complaint.”

Mr. Buntheoun, who runs a Facebook page titled “San Buntheoun Hot News,” said he was not concerned by the lawsuit.

“In a democratic country and according to the law, if someone is not satisfied with us they have the right to complain,” he said. “It is a simple thing for a democratic country.”

“I have no worries. I have no worries at all,” he said.

Asked whether he was concerned by the fact that Ms. Sovantha has had success in her previous complaints, Mr. Buntheoun said his case was not a political case and he was just an independent reporter.

“I am not a politician,” he said. “I think Thy Sovantha will struggle to get a win against me.”

Mr. Buntheoun denied that he had told anyone to attack Ms. Sovantha and added that he would file a counter-complaint if the court did not find him guilty.

He would face the charge head-on and go to court if he was summoned for questioning, he said.

“She wants to tame San Buntheoun,” he said.

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