Two Ex-CNRP Members Sentenced for Insulting King in Private Call

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Kong Bunheang and Hang Seng, in photos posted to the Facebook page of former CNRP lawmaker Kong Sophea.

Two ex-CNRP members have been found guilty of insulting the king and sentenced to three years in prison with two years suspended, Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Y Rin said on Wednesday.

Kong Bunheang, 66, and Hang Seng, 69, pleaded guilty to the charge at their trial last month, when the court heard that the crime was a private conversation between the two men.

Seng admitted to using foul words about the king, saying “I was just making fun and on that day I drank some wine.” Bunheang, who said he had a heart condition and problem with his leg, and struggled to stand straight under questioning, said he had just agreed with Seng, and “it happened unintentionally because I am sick and old.”

Rin said Presiding Judge Kol Kampoul had sentenced the two men to three years in prison on Tuesday but suspended two of the years, meaning they would need to serve one year. They were also ordered to pay 6 million riel, or about $1,500, each, Rin said.

The verdict came after nine senior CNRP leaders living abroad were on Monday sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison and stripped of their right to stand in elections. Both verdicts came after the court announced it was postponing most hearings due to the current “February 20” Covid-19 cluster. The outbreak has seen the highest number of active Covid-19 cases in the country, and schools and businesses shut across the capital and other provinces. 

Bunheang and Seng are both former CNRP members from Battambang province. The charge of insulting the king was added to the Criminal Code in 2018, and is defined as “a kind of speech, gesture, written text, drawing or any material that offends the dignity” of the monarch.

The former main opposition CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court in 2017, two months after its party president was jailed on a still pending treason charge.

Defense lawyer Long Lun could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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