Woman Charged Over Post Claiming Prime Minister’s Death

The Battambang Provincial Court on Sunday charged a local wo­man with making an insult after a post appeared on her Facebook page claiming—falsely—that Prime Minister Hun Sen had died in a plane crash and calling on the public to celebrate.

A message posted on Tuesday to Pang Sina’s Facebook page, using the name Sina Neakmeas, reads: “Samdech Techo Hun Sen died in a plane crash. Please join in celebrating.”

The message was accompanied by an undated photo of Mr. Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, seated in an airplane and another with the prime minister’s portrait inside a fu­neral wreath.

A similar post dated June 5 claimed Mr. Hun Sen had died in a plane crash on his way to Malaysia.

“The woman was charged with insulting the leader and she is now in the hands of an investigating judge,” said Touch Sopheakdey, a spokesman for the provincial court.

Mr. Sopheakdey said the wo­man was charged with making a public insult and making an insult under the Criminal Code. The former carries a penalty of up to 10 mil­lion riel, about $2,500. The latter carries a penalty of up to 100,000 riel, about $25, and six days in jail.

Kom Reang district military police commander Muy Salit said Ms. Sina, 35, was arrested Friday inside the Pranasy Casino on her way to have lunch.

“My commander asked me to send this woman to court because she published wrong information that Samdech Hun Sen died in a plane crash,” he said.

Investigating Judge Lik Sokha said he released Ms. Sina after charging her on Sunday because she claimed she had lost her phone a week ago and did not post the offending message.

“I allowed her to return home today because we don’t have enough evidence to prove she is guilty, but we will call her back for questioning if we have more information,” he said.

“The woman admitted that the Facebook account belongs to her, but she denied posting the message on Facebook because she had lost a telephone a week ago.”

Judge Sokha said the court would ask local authorities wheth­er the phone had been reported lost, as Ms. Sina claimed.

Ms. Sina could not be reached for comment.

The government has shown  grow­ing sensitivity to online comments.

Two opposition lawmakers have been arrested in recent months, despite the legal immunity guaranteed to them by the Constitution, for online posts accusing the government of effectively ceding territory to Vietnam.

In March, the Phnom Penh Mu­nicipal Court convicted a university student of incitement to commit a felony and sentenced him to 18 months in jail for a Facebook post in which he called for a “color revolution.”

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