US, rights groups criticise jailing of Cambodian teen over social media posts


The US government and human rights groups condemn the jailing of a teenager in Cambodia who was convicted in connection to messages he shared on social media that were critical of ruling party officials.

Sovann Chhay, 16, son of a detained member of the political opposition and an activist, was sentenced Monday to eight months in prison. His indictment included charges for insulting public officials.

He will spend four months and 15 days behind bars, with the rest of his sentence being suspended.

The sentencing comes amid a broad crackdown in Cambodia on the opposition, civil society and the media that began in the run-up to a 2018 election.

The US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy criticised the court’s decision.

“I am saddened to hear the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today sentenced a child to prison time for what appears to be politically motivated charges. How does jailing the teenage son of a opposition figure demonstrate respect for human rights?” Mr. Murphy said in a tweet.

Mr. Plang Sophal, deputy prosecutor and spokesman at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, declined to comment on the case.

The boy was due to be released from prison this month but will remain under probation for two additional years, during which time he will be required to appear before the court whenever summoned; inform the court if he changes address; and obtain permission to leave the country, among other conditions, local rights group Licadho said.

“The conviction against 16-year-old, autistic Sovann Chhay is outrageous and unacceptable on so many levels and signifies a new low in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s witch hunt against his political opponents,” said Mr. Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. (Source: The Straits Times)