Police in Siem Reap province arrested a senior citizen over the weekend for allegedly insulting the King on social media, making him the second person to be detained under the country’s new royal insult law.
Siem Reap Provincial Court identified the suspect as Ban Samphy, a 70-year-old barber from Chikreng district’s Kampong Kdey commune.
According to a warrant signed by Judge Nguon Nara, the suspect was charged on Sunday with insulting the King and was sent to the provincial jail pending trial.
Sok Sotheavuth, Chi Kreng district police chief, said that the suspect confessed to police that he shared an image on Facebook.
“He told me that he shared the picture because he was angry at the King for being less prestigious than his predecessor,” Mr Sotheavuth said. “He was also upset because he thinks the King is not able to properly manage the country.”
Mr Sotheavuth said that Mr Samphy shared an image previously shared by a primary school teacher in Kampong Thom province, who was also arrested and charged for the same offence.
The teacher, who was identified as Kheng Navy, 50, was charged on May 13 for insulting the King, making him the first to be charged under a new law that condemns insulting Cambodian royalty.
Rights groups in the region have expressed their concern that the law could be used to silence critics. Under the law, a prosecutor can file a criminal lawsuit on behalf of the monarchy against anyone deemed to be insulting the royal family.
Mr Sotheavuth said that the 70-year-old suspect not only insulted the King, but also a senior member of the ruling Cambodia People’s Party.
“He insulted the King and Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Mr Sotheavuth said. “He was charged on Sunday and was sent to the provincial prison pending trial.”
In February, the National Assembly unanimously passed a law that outlaws insulting the royal family. If convicted, Mr Samphy could face up to five years behind bars and a fine of up to $12,500.
Yin Srang, spokesman for Siem Reap Provincial Court, could not be reached for comment.