Pheng Vannak, a Facebook user who offended Prime Minister Hun Sen in a post on the social media platform, made a court appearance on Friday.
Mr Vannak was charged by Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a complaint was filed against him by government lawyer Ky Tech.
Mr Vannak in a Facebook post compared a hit-and-run incident to the murder of slain political analyst Kem Ley. He suggested that Mr Hun Sen gave $50,000 to Fresh News CEO Lim Chea Vutha to give to Mr Ley’s family.
After the complaint was filed, the court charged him with incitement to commit a crime and public defamation. If convicted, Mr Vannak could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
Judge Ly Sokleng and deputy prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth were present in the courtroom as Mr Vannak testified. Judge Sokleng said a verdict will be announced today.
Mr Tech yesterday said on the phone that Mr Vannak confessed the post about Mr Hun Sen was a mistake.
“Mr Vannak recognised his mistake that was posted on Facebook twice,” he said. “He did not have the intention to accuse [Mr Hun Sen] of killing Kem Ley.”
Mr Tech said the court should jail Mr Vannak, but refrain from imposing the fine.
He also said Fresh News has decided to modify their demand for financial compensation from Mr Vannak over the post.
“Because Mr Vannak confessed and recognised his mistake, I asked [Mr Hun Sen] to not demand compensation from him,” he said. “A lawyer for the Fresh News owner has also asked the court to reduce the compensation from $50,000 to 100 riel.”
Ly Rathy, the Fresh News lawyer, yesterday confirmed that his client is no longer seeking $50,000 in compensation because Mr Vannak admitted to making mistakes.
“Please punish Mr Vannak in accordance with the law,” Mr Rathy said.
In a letter to Mr Hun Sen last week, Mr Vannak said he regretted his mistake and said what he wrote about the prime minister was inappropriate.
“This mistake occurred because of my carelessness, lack of consideration – and I got angry with some Facebook users without thinking,” he said. “It affected the honour of Samdech Techo Hun Sen who is a good leader of the Cambodian people.”
Mr Vannak also apologised to other government officials whom he offended in previous posts. He said that his words were inappropriate and that they affected the reputation of the government.
“I remember my mistake and I promise that I will correct my behaviour and speech,” he said. “I will not let these problems happen again.”