Government Official Chastised for Rice-Price Critique

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Banteay Meanchey civil servant Oeun Thy (center) signs a paper after his detention for criticizing rice prices, in a photo posted by the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Police on November 18, 2022.

The Banteay Meanchey police detained and demanded an apology from a civil servant who criticized the government for weak rice prices in the country’s northwestern provinces, days after the Agriculture Ministry warned against any critical social media posts about rice prices.

The police detained government employee Oeun Thy last Friday in Banteay Meanchey’s Svay Chek district after he posted a Facebook live video a day earlier criticizing the administration, specifically the district governor, for not assisting farmers who have been complaining about low rice prices in the market. This amounted to incitement and insult to the governor, the police statement added.

The civil servant was asked to sign an agreement by the police and to stop all criticism related to low rice prices. The video has since been taken down by Thy.

Keo Savoeun, Thy’s cousin, said her relative had not spoken about politics and just raised the issue of low rice prices. He was warned by police, she said, and that she had to stand as a guarantor to get him released from jail.

She added that Thy has friends and family who were affected by the low prices.

“He was angry because there is always no solution. Just think about how much fertilizer [costs] and the loans from microfinance institutions,” she said.

VOD could not reach provincial police chief Sith Lot.

Last week, the Agriculture Ministry made a similar threat to farmers who criticized the government over the market price of rice and said it had sent two ministry officials to resolve the price issue.

The police routinely detain Cambodians who express displeasure at the government or local administration, making a young girl from Kampot make a public apology in 2020 for alleging there were Covid-19 deaths in her school. The initially published the minor’s face in the video before taking it down and reporting the video with her face obscured.

Others critical of the government’s agriculture policy — such as procurement of longan —  have also been arrested and imprisoned.

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