Two Years for Migrant Worker Who Posted PM Death Threat

A Phnom Penh municipal judge on Friday sentenced a 27-year-old migrant laborer to two years in prison over a Facebook post threatening the life of the prime minister.

Presiding Judge Ly Sokleng also fined Ven Sopheap 2 million riel, or about $500, in a case for which no complaint had been filed—a notable contrast to the way authorities dismissed Facebook threats against opposition leader Kem Sokha last year by saying they had no ability to investigate the case without first receiving a complaint.

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Ven Sopheap is escorted out of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier in February. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Sopheap was arrested in October after returning from Thailand to his family’s home in Prey Veng province.

He confessed to posting two Facebook posts that prosecutors said justified criminal charges of making a death threat and inciting discrimination.

Alongside one video, Mr. Sopheap wrote: “Hun Sen oy, today is the day of your death.”

In a comment on another video of Mr. Hun Sen paying a visit to the provinces, he wrote: “Beheading Yuons is the duty of all Khmer children,” using an often derogatory term for Vietnamese people.

Mr. Sopheap, who had asked the court for leniency claiming he had only realized after the fact that his Facebook posts might be illegal, said after the verdict that he would not challenge the sentence, as it could have been longer. Together, the charges could have resulted in a term of up to five years in prison.

“For me, I’m OK,” he said.

He added, however, that he had “only wanted to express my feelings.”

Last year, a man who threatened to “shoot the head” of a prominent academic, Sok Touch, in a Facebook post was given a sentence of six months’ imprisonment. The government had tasked Mr. Touch with evaluating border markers between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Phong Seiha, 27, was arrested in Thailand, where he had been living as a migrant laborer, just days after his post. He was handed over to Cambodian authorities and tried in Phnom Penh.

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