After reports that Facebook vendor Ven Rachna (also known as Thai Srey Neang) has been charged with offences related to pornography and sent to pre-trial detention, Amnesty International has called on Cambodian government for her immediate release, adding that the law used on the accused is oppressive towards women so all charges against her must be dropped.
“These transparently trumped-up charges are an affront to gender equality and make a mockery of the rule of law. The arbitrary nature of Ven Rachna’s arrest and the discriminatory abuse of her freedom of expression represent a troubling regression in the state of women’s rights in Cambodia,” Amnesty International’s Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin said.
“At a time when the Cambodian government is boasting of its human rights record this case reveals the cruel reality of repression and discrimination facing many in Cambodia today,” Bequelin continued.
“These charges rest on the abusive misapplication of a law which was supposedly intended to combat human trafficking, but instead is being used to oppress women. Ven Rachna must be released immediately and all charges against her dropped,” said Bequelin.
Ven Rachna’s legal trouble started when Prime Minister Hun Sen, during a speech on February 17, ordered the authorities to take immediate action against women who allegedly wear “revealing” clothing while selling products in Facebook Live streams.
On February 19, Ven Rachna was brought to Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork police station where she signed an agreement to stop wearing “revealing” clothing on Facebook. In a video posted to Facebook by the police, she apologises for wearing clothing “which disgraces Khmer traditions” and “affects the honour of Cambodian women”.
Ven Rachna was later released but subsequently re-arrested after posting again on Facebook. She was questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday and then detained overnight at the Tuol Kork police station before being brought back to the court and charged on Friday.
On February 21, 2019, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Ven Rachna with “Pornography” under Articles 38 and 39 of the Law on Human Trafficking, in addition to “Exposure of a Sex Organ” under Article 249 of the Criminal Code. She was then sent to pre-trial detention in Phnom Penh’s CC2 prison. The combined charges could result in up to 15 months’ imprisonment.
Hun Sen stated in his speech that women wearing revealing clothes on Facebook are eroding Cambodian cultural values and that such behaviour is to blame for sexual violence. The Prime Minister further ordered government authorities to find these women and “educate” them if found to be engaged in such practices. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)