The Phnom Penh Municipal Court brought another incitement case against political analyst Kim Sok as well as two other government critics, who are accused of spreading misinformation to cause hatred toward the government.
None of the three defendants were present during the one-hour court trial hearing, but the trial proceeded anyway. The court clerk said police had sent letters to all defendants, adding that they all lived overseas: Sok in Finland, Meas Leakhena in the Philippines, and Huy Sakil in the U.S.
According to judge Seng Socheat, the anti-terrorism and transnational crimes police filed the complaint to the court two years ago on November 3, 2020. Officials from the two police departments testified in court on Thursday.
Chan Darith, an officer in the anti-terrorism police, said his office had closely monitored all three defendants’ Facebook accounts between June and August 2020 and found they routinely livestreamed online and posted photos of Prime Minister Hun Sen to criticize the government.
“They all posted a lot of misinformation on their Facebook accounts in order to cause chaos in society and hatred toward the Cambodian government,” said Darith.
Another anti-terrorism police official, Seng Dina, affirmed Darith’s statement.
Court clerk Lay Narith then read out a police report about the three defendants’ Facebook activities.
On August 14, 2020, defendant Sakil said in a live Facebook video, according to the report: “This is my opinion about the Cambodian court nowadays: Hun Sen has been using the court to arrest people who love democracy.”
Posting a photo of Hun Sen in the same month, Sakil said: “Thank you for the peace that lets me buy the watch that I like. And whoever is against me, I will arrest and send to jail.”
Hun Sen made headlines that year for wearing watches reportedly worth over $1 million.
In another post, also from August 2020, Sakil said: “Because of this dictatorship government, we lost 20% of the EBA,” referring to preferential trade with the E.U. that was suspended over alleged human rights violations.
Facebook posts by Sok read out by the clerk also criticized the Cambodian government over suppressing free expression, alleged corruption among high-ranking officials, and urged the Cambodian people to stand up against the government.
The third defendant, Leakhena, meanwhile wrote in August, according to the police report: “Civil servants, be ready to welcome the arrival of Sam Rainsy and to overthrow the Cambodian government.”
Prosecutor Lim Bun Heng said he agreed with the contents of the police report. “The accusation is true. The police have actual evidence to prove that the three defendants did commit all of these actions,” said Bun Heng.
Only the police officials, judge, court clerk, prosecutor and two VOD reporters were present at the trial on Thursday. The three defendants did not have lawyers, and none had given information during investigations by police, prosecution and judge, according to the clerk.
Judge Seng Socheat said he would announce the verdict on January 18, 2023.
Sok was a defendant in another incitement trial on Monday for posts dating back to 2017. An outspoken political critic, Sok was previously jailed for 18 months for incitement before moving abroad.
A third incitement trial against government critics is set to be held on Friday at the municipal court.
This story was corrected on Dec. 9th to reflect that Chan Darith’s given name is spelled Darith, not Dararith.