US, rights groups condemn jail of Cambodian teenager for social media posts

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 1 (Reuters) – United States and human rights groups on Monday condemned the sentencing of a Cambodian teenager who was sentenced to eight months in prison for posts he shared on Facebook and Telegram insulting ruling party officials.

The conviction comes amid a widespread crackdown in Cambodia against the opposition, civil society and the media that began in the run-up to the 2018 elections.

Sovann Chhay, 16, who, according to a human rights group, suffers from autism spectrum disorder and is the son of a detained political opposition member and activist, was sentenced on Monday to eight months, of which he will serve four months and 15 days in prison with the remainder of the suspended sentence.

US Ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy criticized the court ruling.

“I am saddened to learn today that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced a child to prison on what appear to be politically motivated charges. How does the imprisonment of the teenage son of an opposition figure demonstrate respect for human rights? Murphy said in a tweet.

Plang Sophal, deputy prosecutor and spokesperson for the Phnom Penh municipal court, declined to comment on the case.

The boy was due out of prison this month but will remain on probation for two more years, during which time he will have to appear in court each time he is summoned; inform the court if it changes address; and get permission to leave the country, among other conditions, local rights group Licadho said.

“The conviction of Sovann Chhay, a 16-year-old with autism, is scandalous and unacceptable in many ways and signifies a new low in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s witch hunt against his political opponents,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia to Human Rights Watch. .

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Alex Richardson

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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