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Barber jailed for insulting King

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Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to supporters via video link in 2016. He is among thos who have been charged for insulting the King under the lèse majesté law. Heng Chivoan

Barber jailed for insulting King

The Siem Reap provincial court sentenced a 70-year-old barber to a year in prison under the lèse majesté law for a Facebook post insulting King Norodom Sihamoni.

Court spokesman Yin Srang, told The Post yesterday that the accused is Ban Samphy, 70, a Ponleu Preah Phos villager, from Kampong Kdei commune, in the province’s Chikraeng district.

“He was sentenced to a year in prison by judge Um Chanthol, but will serve [a reduced sentence of only] seven months,” he said.

Provincial police found Samphy’s Facebook account on May 13 with the shared picture of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, first lady Bun Rany, and a picture of King Sihamoni in a car.

There was also a video clip of villagers affected by flooding who were angry that the authorities had restricted their movements.

Included was the insult, which compared the King unfavourably to Cambodia’s former kings.

‘No defence’

Article 437 of the Criminal Code for “insulting the King” says that “the use of words, gestures, writings, sketches or objects which undermine the dignity of a person constitutes an insult.

The possible sentence for insulting the King ranges from one to five years in jail and a fine of between $2 million ($500) and 10 million.

Records showed that the Siem Reap provincial police kept note of the post and arrested him on May 19 at his residence before taking him to the police station for questioning.

There, Samphy said he shared the post after seeing it on another Facebook account belonging to “Khmer Thatcher”.

“He confessed that he shared that post. The picture he shared was for his group to see. He said he was angry with the King, but agreed he was wrong to share the post. He said [he did so] only because he was angry,” said district police chief Sok Sotheavuth.

A lawyer and spokesperson for the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia Yim Sary said ignorance of the law is no defence and that it wasn’t the Bar’s responsibility to inform the public.

“If they want to insult anyone, they have to do research to find out if there is a law on it. They must do the research themselves,” Sary said.

Three people have been arrested so far for insulting the King since the amendment to the lèse majesté law.

Among them is the former leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Sam Rainsy, who was scheduled for a hearing on July 12 at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court but failed to turn up.

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