Police Demands Money Over Facebook Mistake

3 min read
People gather in a house in Kang Meas district’s Raka-ar commune in Kampong Cham province. (Courtesy of CJ News Khmer)
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A Kampong Cham man says local police demanded $250 in compensation for damage to their honor after he posted a photo from outside the province alongside an article about illegal gambling in the area.

Louth Sok on Thursday posted a screenshot of a news article about the concerns of families in Kang Meas district’s Raka-ar commune about gambling returning to some local coffee shops. Alongside the screenshot, he posted a picture of gambling in Takeo province.

Sok said he received a police summons the next morning to come to the station, and immediately deleted his post.

He met with police for about an hour starting at 8 a.m., apologizing for putting the photo on his Facebook post.

But the commune police chief still demanded 1 million riel from him, and told him he needed to return on Saturday with his parents to make the payment, Sok said.

“He accused me of damaging his honor by using the other picture on the post, and he demanded that I compensate him 1 million for using a TV screenshot from Takeo province,” Sok said. “He caught this mistake and accused me — I do not understand [what’s happening]. He told me that I can do anything, but the pictures have to be from this province, and he would be fine with it then. I don’t know whether he is right and I am wrong. I don’t know since I don’t know the law.”

He asked a VOD reporter for clarity. “As a journalist, you take pictures to show, right? Is what I’ve done wrong, brother?”

Sok said he didn’t have the money and was concerned about getting arrested as the police had told him they “would consider another way.”

“I’m worried and scared because I cannot find 1 million,” he said. Sok said he works as a cook for funerals and other events and was 30 years old, though police said he was 24.

Raka-ar commune police chief Ly Pheary acknowledged he had summoned Sok, and said he had only made the monetary demand as a way to stop him from doing the same thing again.

“We had summoned him because the picture he posted was not in Raka-ar commune. … I told him that this can be a defamation lawsuit.”

Pheary also argued that Sok had posted about the police chief gambling on cockfighting, but this could not be seen on screenshots of the Facebook post. The photo posted by Sok instead shows a television screen with a lottery-type game on one side and cockfighting on the other, with the post’s text only mentioning the local area’s name.

Asked if he had demanded 1 million riel, Pheary said he had not taken any money.

“I just said it to make him not do it again. We have not yet,” he said. “I was just saying it to make him not do it again.”

Pheary asked why Sok had posted the news article if he was not a journalist, and complained that he had not posted anything about authorities taking action against illegal gambling.

Separately, the National Election Committee on Friday called out as “unethical” and “unacceptable” an anonymous Facebook page whose profile photo is NEC chair Prach Chan and name “legal thief.”

The NEC said the account intended to “destroy democracy in Cambodia,” and the committee was working with authorities to find bad actors. It could have “no choice but to take legal action,” it said.

Claims of “vote stealing” during last year’s commune election have led to a $1-million defamation conviction against opposition Candlelight Party vice president Son Chhay. Observers of the election raised questions about closed doors during vote-counting and the presence of local officials around polling places.

Additional reporting by Ouch Sony

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