Cambodia: First ‘royal insult’ conviction a new low for government

Responding to the conviction and sentencing of Ban Samphy to seven months in prison and a five-month suspended sentence on charges of “insulting the king” for sharing a Facebook post, Minar Pimple, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Global Operations, said:

“Ban Samphy is behind bars for expressing himself – all he did was click a ‘share’ button for a post that included nothing but peaceful criticism. He should be released immediately and unconditionally, and his sentence must be overturned.

All he did was click a ‘share’ button for a Facebook post that included nothing but peaceful criticism.
Minar Pimple, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Global Operations

This is a brazenly political verdict. Earlier this year, Hun Sen’s administration devised this ‘lese majeste’ provision to the Criminal Code to muzzle peaceful criticism, as this first conviction shows. This legislation must be repealed.”

Background

Ban Samphy, a 70-year-old barber and former minor opposition official from Siem Reap, was jailed for sharing a Facebook post that criticized Prime Minister Hun Sen and what the post called the "fake king" over a dam project.

The amendment to Article 437 of the Criminal Code was introduced in the National Assembly in February 2018 by Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party, which holds all the seats. The amendment states that “the use of words, gestures, writings, sketches or objects which undermine the dignity of a person constitutes an insult” and that “insulting the King is liable to one year to five years in jail and a fine of 2 million [$500] to 10 million riel [$2,500].” Ban Samphy was arrested on suspicion of violating this law in May 2018.

Two more people have been charged under the law and await trial. One of them is Sam Rainsy, a leading opposition politician in exile.