Cambodian jailed three years for insulting king on Facebook

Workers prepare a portrait of the Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni at a hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Samrang Pring/Files

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – A Cambodian court jailed a man on Wednesday for three years for insulting the king in Facebook posts, the second known conviction under a new lese majeste law enacted last year, which rights groups fear could be used to stifle dissent.

“The court announced a verdict against Ieng Cholsa which sentenced him to 3 years in prison and ordered him to pay five million riels ($1,250),” Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Y Rin said.

The Facebook posts, which the court found had insulted King Norodom Sihamoni, were uploaded in June last year, Y Rin said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The defendant could not be reached for comment and the court did not say whether he had a lawyer.

Cambodia’s lese majeste law was unanimously adopted by parliament in February last year. Rights groups expressed concerns at the time that the law, which is similar to legislation in neighbouring Thailand, could be used to silence government critics.

Last October, a court in the northern province of Siem Reap jailed a member of the dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) under the law.

The Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in 2017 at the government’s request after it was found guilty of plotting to take power with the help of the United States – an accusation the party and Washington have denied.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won a general election in July last year which critics said was flawed because of a lack of a credible opposition, among other factors.

(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by James Pearson and Peter Graff)

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