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Pheng Vannak sent to prison amidst mounting complaints

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Pheng Vannak arrives at court on Tuesday. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday jailed Facebook personality Pheng Vannak pending an upcoming trial after he was charged on Tuesday with incitement to commit a crime and public defamation.

According to a court statement yesterday, Mr Vannak was charged with incitement to commit a crime and public defamation over a series of Facebook posts on March 29.

Judge Kei Manera said in the statement that multiple complaints were filed against Mr Vannak and that the accused is to be sent to Prey Sar prison pending trial.

“I instruct authorities to implement my order and take Mr Vannak to Prey Sar prison,” Judge Manera said. “The prison chief must detain Mr Vannak until there is a new decision. I call on all relevant authorities to follow my order.”

Court spokesman Ly Sophanna said the judge also ordered for the case to move forward and called for a fact-finding investigation.

Mr Vannak’s current charges arose from a complaint from government lawyer Ky Tech for comparing a hit-and-run incident to the murder of political analyst Kem Ley.

The complaint said Mr Vannak reiterated that Prime Minister Hun Sen gave $50,000 to Fresh News CEO Lim Chea Vutha to give to the family of slain political analyst Kem Ley.

“The post illustrated a clear plan and wicked intention to make a comparison under a purpose to accuse and to brand Mr Hun Sen as the man behind the murder of Kem Ley,” Mr Tech said in the complaint. “Apparently, a large number of Facebook users commented and shared Mr Vannak’s post [and created] confusion that Mr Hun Sen was the one who killed Kem Ley.”

Mr Chea Vutha has also filed a complaint against Mr Vannak, accusing him of defamation. He is demanding $500,000 in compensation.

Cambodian Youth Party president Pich Sros earlier this week filed a complaint against Mr Vannak with the Anti-Corruption Unit because Mr Vannak handed $5,000 to the family of the victim in the hit-and-run incident.

In a statement signed by ACU president Om Yentieng on Tuesday, the ACU said it will carry out a thorough investigation to verify whether Mr Sros’ complaint is under its jurisdiction.

“The ACU acknowledged Mr Sros’ concern regarding Mr Vannak because money was handed to the family of a hit-and-run victim,” the statement said. “However, there was no clear evidence to take immediate action. The ACU will continue gathering information before a decision is made.”

Additionally, Facebook personality Khan Sovann on Tuesday filed a complaint against Mr Vannak, accusing the latter of using violence and intimidation, and also of defamation, insults and blackmail.

Mr Sovann said the complaint stemmed from an accusation made against him by Mr Vannak about a nude karaoke bar, and a slew of insults.

“Mr Vannak attacked me and ruined my business. He alleged that I was running a nude karaoke bar,” he said. “Because of what he said, my business faced serious problems – I lost income and reputation.”

“I ask for $1.3 million in compensation,” Mr Sovann said.

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