Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried a 23-year-old transvestite who allegedly insulted all Khmers in a video clip posted on Facebook after he was assaulted by a group of men in the capital in February.
Judge Mao Sina identified the accused as Yin Heng, a third-year law student from Preah Vihear province’s Rovieng district who is studying in the capital.
He said the accused was charged with incitement to discriminate. He faces up to three years in jail and a fine of up to $1,600 if convicted.
Judge Sina noted that Mr Heng was arrested on February 5 by anti-cybercrime police from the Interior Ministry at his rental house in Daun Penh district.
He said the accused was arrested on the orders of Interior Minister Sar Kheng after his Facebook post, which contained a barrage of insults against Khmers, caused an outcry from other users.
In the video clip, which was yesterday played in court, Mr Heng went on a tirade over his attack.
“I was riding my motorbike by myself. However, three people riding a motorbike behind me came alongside and one of them hit me on the head,” he said. “I don’t understand. Did I do something wrong? I tried to remain calm after the incident but my head hurt.”
“Now there is a huge bump on my head. They were truly Khmer people – Khmer blood. Khmers are like animals. Khmers are bad,” Mr Heng added. “Why did you do this to me? What have I ever done to you? You will be destroyed – not by other people, but by yourselves. It’s fitting that the Khmer Empire lost its territory. You will be burned and destroyed. If Khmers lose even more territory, it is even better.”
A day after he posted the clip, other Facebook users lashed back at him and Mr Heng posted a video apology to all Cambodian people.
“After further thinking, I know that I was wrong to use degrading language about Cambodia and Cambodian people,” he said. “But I just wanted to express my overwhelming feelings, because I was very angry at the time after I was hit on the head.”
During yesterday’s trial, the accused said that before his arrest, he was a third-year law student at the Royal University of Law and Economic Sciences in Phnom Penh, and was also an actor.
Mr Heng noted that at about 7 pm on February 4, he was travelling on his motorbike along Russian Boulevard towards his rental house in Daun Penh district’s Chey Chumneas commune, after dropping off a friend at the Phnom Penh International airport.
He said while he was travelling home, he was attacked by the three men on the road in Toek Thla commune.
Mr Heng said that he was angry over the attack and later stood outside the Royal Palace and posted the video, showing him with a bump on his head and the palace in the background, in which he made the derogatory comments.
“I acknowledged that I was wrong to insult my own people. I was born in Cambodia although I am half-Vietnamese through my father,” he told the court. “But I did not have any intention to look down on or insult Khmers. I was very upset and regret my mistake which was caused because I was angry.”
Mr Heng pleaded for a lenient sentence so that he could continue his studies.
Deputy prosecutor Kuch Kimlong told the court that the accused’s tirade seriously affected the reputation and honour of Khmers, all Cambodians and also the King. He pressed for a deterrent sentence.
A verdict is due June 20.