A controversy over political activist Thy Sovantha has shaken up the CNRP’s supporter base over the last two weeks leading to a storm of accusations and death threats against the high school student, 19, on Facebook and blogs.
Sovantha’s who is arguably the most popular figure associated with the Cambodian opposition party CNRP has been accused of being a CPP spy by the popular (284,000 likes) I love Cambodia Hot News Facebook page. The reason given is her alleged relation to former CPP youth member Phe Sovannarith who has also been accused of being a CPP spy – allegations Sovantha denied in an interview with LIFT last week.
Yet, Sovantha’s flawless image as CNRP supporter has remained crippled especially after CNRP deputy director of public affairs, Kem Monovithya, renounced any connection between the party and Sovantha on her Facebook page last week.
The only person however who until now never gave a public statement is Phe Sovannarith, the origin of the controversy himself.
In LIFT, Sovannarith publicly speaks about his political background for the first time.
Rumor in Facebook has it that Thy Sovantha was sacked from members of I love Cambodia hot news and she created her own page which was administrated by you. Is this true?
This is a politically motivated mispresentation. She created her own page 10 months earlier when she went to Singapore. Once back I Love Cambodia Hot News 1 and I Love Cambodia Hot News 2 attacked her and accused her of attending a workshop with Hun Many in Singapore where she was supposed to have met me too. At that time all unknowing Facebook users were surprised and actually believed Thy Sovantha was a traitor and a spy and she betrayed her parents by having a secret love affair with me. A video clip showed that I was an administrator of her page. I wonder those allegations are really based on evidence? That I controlled her page is not true.
Do you have a relationship with Sovantha? Did you meet her at Singapore?
Of course, she went to Singapore in a workshop which about 3000 people took part in and I participated too. I saw her while she didn’t notice me. She attended with her friends, approximately 30 people. They seemed not to welcome me. So I have a friendship with her but not love.
What is the false information you said was spread?
In July 2013 I started taking part in the election campaign and supported the CNRP. I criticized government officials such as Khiev Kanharith, Im Sothy and the Ministry of Post and so on. Every posting gained “Likes” from thousands to ten thousands. In July 2013, I Love Cambodia Hot News posted my picture shooting with Chea Chamroeun and criticized me that I was a spy of CPP to create chaos. They also posted my picture which was shot a long time ago showing me with Hun Many. Then Facebook users started changing their minds and attacked me.
What is your reaction to these accusations of being a CPP spy?
I want to ask people if shooting a picture with a CPP leader can serve as evidence of me being a spy. This is ridiculous. To those who accuse me baselessly I can say that they are jealous of me because so many people on Facebook supported me. Some people don’t like me. They started mutilating pictures of me and without reflection insulted me badly.
What do you do to make them believe that you are not a CPP spy?
My name and my picture have already been a brand for the CNRP cause for a long time. So it’s not too hard to make them believe in me again. Only time will make CNRP supporters believe in me – until 2018 nothing too late.
Is it true that you used to be Chea Chamroeun’s inferior?
It’s not true. I was just teaching IT in his school two or three years ago. For posting photos with Hun Many, I shoot it when I held a workshop on a scholarship program in pedagogy school and Hun Many was the president of that program. I don’t have any relationship with him.
There is a video of you burning Hun Sen’s photo as well as Chhuon Sovan’s, and a Thai flag. Why did you do that?
I just showed what I disliked. This is my right of free speech. In accordance with our law: it doesn’t have any article to I can be charged for.
Were you worried when you did it?
I was a bit worried about it, but I decided to do it because that shows I am not afraid. I think that our Cambodian youths have to be brave and don’t stand still to be hit and abused in their rights like today. I don’t have anyone to support my back. I have always been a CNRP supporter but I am harmed by rumors which don’t let me gain popularity. I have no choice but to push young people to be brave.
How closely are you with the CNRP? What about the CPP?
I don’t know anyone in the CNRP. My activity comes from my heart. For CPP, I went to a few meetings but it’s nothing unusual because I was a soldier three years ago.
So now which party do you support?
I clarify that I, Phe Sovanarith, am a CNRP supporter from the beginning until now. If I joined with CPP I would tell them about so many weak points within the CNRP. But I keep quiet to let CNRP correct itself step by step. I come to fight the CPP.
What are your views on the election and the development of the country?
I think that during the election campaign CNRP supporters had so much power, comparable to that of theCPP. Many people no longer trust the CPP because they see injustice, corruption and evictions. There was election fraud. The CPP is not good and tries to grab power. It is a fake democracy we live in. For development, I see that roads and drainages are constructed in abundance. But nothing is invested in education; only in things for public display.
You posted on Facebook that what you should do, you did already. What do you refer to?
“I did it already” refers to vote for a party I like. I encourage many youths to support the CNRP. I don’t care about my reputation. They hate me; I have to make them hate me more. What I had done recently is that I set leaders’ photos on fire in which other youths can’t do. This is the top of freedom of speech I did. I want all young people to think about what I wrote on Facebook and did.
You wrote that you left the political stage. For real?
I just quitted for a while to take some time for our politicians to think. When I come back to politics there will be many things to do. I take some time for them to think about how I am and where I will fit in.
What political ambitions do you have?
I want our politicians change. Prime Minister Hun Sen is in power for a long time and his political tactics are uninspired. He should just go and let someone else replace him. Corruption still exist and education is still limited.
You spend most time in Singapore. What do you do there and when will you come back?
I work for a technology company and I am a programmer. I work all over the ASEAN region because my company has its branches in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. I don’t have distinct goals on when I will come back to Cambodia. I have to make some money to pay for my own bills. I also wait for a better political environment in Cambodia because now I can’t do any business until there are good laws for businessmen.
You said that there were so many misunderstandings among Facebook users. What do you want to reveal today?
All Cambodian youth have to know that political mispresentation must be stopped. Politics reach deeply. If our youths are passionate in politics without consideration it can drag our country into danger. I think that those who criticized Thy Sovantha are not real CNRP supporters. Real supporters don’t behave like that. The criticisms lost the CNRP political credibility. This is because of jealousy. If they really think Sovantha is a spy they should look at the time from the election campaign until now and ask themselves who really benefited from her. If we talk about evidence, there is no evidence to prompt that Sovantha is a spy. If you are thinking about reasons why she would a spy I don’t see any either.
Youths should pay attention on what they see and not judge by someone’s statements about what this or that guy did. Consider this point and see what happened. Be patient to see one’s long term good will and just believe in it.