The National Assembly yesterday approved an amendment to the Penal Code allowing prison sentences for anyone insulting the King.
An extraordinary session was held yesterday to discuss and then approve the Penal Code amendment, as well as amending five articles of the constitution and a draft law on business in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
The Council of Ministers had drafted the Penal Code amendment on February 2, noting that insulting the king should be punished with imprisonment from one to five years and a fine from $500 to $12,500.
Phorn Chantha, a lawmaker with the Funcipec Party, said he supported the law against insulting the King.
“I am a lawmaker for the royalist Funcipec Party, so I support this amendment,” he said. “I support the law that punishes anyone who insults the King.”
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said the amendment remained unchanged prior to its passage.
Mr Vong Vathana noted that state prosecutors would not need a formal complaint to be filed by the King to take legal action against individuals who defame the royal family.
You Hok Kry, the first vice-president of the National Assembly from the Funcipec Party, said the amendment was long overdue.
“This law is correct and fills a void in our laws,” Mr Hok Kry said. “I support and admire the government for approving this amendment.”
The creation of laws against insulting the King follows comments made by former deputy prime minister Lu Lay Sreng last year, who compared the King to a castrated rooster and was charged with defamation.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said the punishments were not as serious as in other countries, but were needed nonetheless.
“Our law concerning the punishment of wrongdoers for insulting the King is not as serious as those in Thailand and Saudi Arabia,” he said. “However, Cambodia needs to have a proper law in this regard given that in the past, people have insulted the King.”