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Cambodia Gov’t Approves New Lèse-Majesté Rules

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, center, greets his government officials upon his arrival for the water festival in front of Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.

A government spokesman said offenders could also receive a fine of more than $15,000.

The Cambodian government on Friday approved a legal amendment that will see insults to the monarchy punishable by up to five years in prison.

The new lèse-majesté rules will draw comparisons with neighboring Thailand, where an offense against the monarchy can bring up to 15 years in jail.

Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, said offenders could also receive a fine of more than $15,000 in total.

He added that the amendment was made in response to “the rise of attackers affecting our entire monarchy,” adding that Cambodia was following the example of other constitutional monarchies “like Britain and Thailand.”

He said the amendments would be sent to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party-controlled parliament next week for approval.

Oum Daravuth, a spokesman for the palace, declined to comment.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with local rights group Licadho, said he supported the idea of drafting the amendment, but criticized the process, which had not included public consultation.

“In the democratically-ruled countries, any proposed legislation or legal amendment is always made with public consultation to receive input from relevant experts or stakeholders to ensure effective implementation and to reduce controversy,” he said.