One-Year Imprisonment Upheld for Vaccine-Critical Facebook Posts

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A man checks the news on his smartphone. (Heng Vichet/VOD)

The Appeal Court on Tuesday upheld one-year jail sentences against two former opposition activists for incitement and insult after they criticized the distribution of Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccines in Cambodia before they were approved by the WHO.

Judge Nguon Ratana said the Appeal Court upheld the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s earlier conviction from July and said the two defendants could lodge a further appeal.

CNRP activists Thorn Chantha and Mey Sophorn had both been sentenced to one year in prison and fined $500 for sharing videos last year from another Facebook account while commenting on Covid-19 vaccines.

During their appeal hearing on December 21, Chantha said he had only expressed his opinion, and officials could have merely informed him if he was wrong.

“I criticized constructively for the common benefit of the people and not for my family,” he said in court.

Sophorn said at the time that she had criticized the government for using Chinese-made vaccines before they had been given approval by the World Health Organization, and commented on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s desire to pass power to his son. She argued last month that her comment on Hun Manet turned out to be true, as Hun Sen had openly endorsed Manet.

“The [court] should give me a chance. If I was wrong, they should warn me and should not imprison me like this,” Sophorn said during the appeal hearing in December. ”I just like to follow societal [issues]. I have no intention to provoke.”

Defense lawyer Sam Sokong could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

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