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Man jailed over Facebook posts freed

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Chhem Savuth served two years in jail over Facebook posts threatening Prime Minister Hun Sen. Supplied

A migrant worker who was sentenced to two years in jail after threatening Prime Minister Hun Sen on Facebook was released yesterday after serving his term in Prey Sar prison.

Prison director Chhem Savuth said Ven Sopheap was released yesterday evening after signing release papers.

Mr Sopheap was arrested in October 2016 following his return from work in Thailand to his family’s home in Prey Veng province to vote.

After the arrest, Mr Sopheap confessed to threatening Mr Hun Sen on Facebook.

Court prosecutors charged Mr Sopheap for making a death threat and inciting discrimination. After he was found guilty, Mr Sopheap was sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of about $500.

Mr Sopheap said yesterday that he was disappointed to serve two years in jail for posts he shared on Facebook.

“It’s my fault, I did not understand the problem caused by my posts. I thought I was just expressing my feelings on social media,” he said. “Two years in prison for two posts on Facebook really affected my life – I have no plans on what I should do now.”

Mr Sopheap said that he will be more careful now with what he posts online, but noted that he will remain fearless in expressing his opinions on social injustice.

Former opposition official Meach Sovannara said yesterday that he helped Mr Sopheap during the latter’s stint in prison. Mr Sovannara noted that Mr Sopheap’s imprisonment was a political move.

“I hope the government can be more tolerant toward people who want to exercise their freedom of expression instead of sentencing them to prison,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for the rights group Licadho, said that Mr Sopheap did not deserve to go to prison over the Facebook posts.

“The action taken to deal with him [Mr Sopheap] was a bit harsh. The posts were part of his freedom of expression. The problem is that he did not understand the consequences of his action,” Mr Sam Ath said. “So, I think that instead of sending him to jail, authorities should have just warned him and educated him. By doing so, other users will be aware of the problem.”

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