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Online Seller Convicted for “Producing Pornography”, Given a Suspended Sentence

FILE: Ven Rachana (above) sold women's clothes and cosmetics on a Facebook page called the Thai Srey Neang Online Shop. (Facebook)
FILE: Ven Rachana (above) sold women's clothes and cosmetics on a Facebook page called the Thai Srey Neang Online Shop. (Facebook)

An online seller who was deemed too “sexy” by local authorities in February was convicted and handed a six-month suspended sentence by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, according to a relative.

Ven Rachana, who goes by Thai Srey Neang online, used to sell clothes on Facebook and was arrested by local police was dressing provocatively, after Prime Minister Hun Sen mandated the arrest of all sellers who use “indecent” pictures to sell product online.

Ven Meta, Ven Rachana’s sister, said the online seller was convicted last week on April 24 and handed a six-month sentence, which had been reduced to two months and 15 days. She was unclear when exactly Ven Rachana would be released but said it could be around May 5.

The online seller was arrested on February 20 and had been charged on February 24 with “producing pornography,” for dressing up in the clothes she was selling and posting the pictures to her Facebook page.

“We don’t know yet, we will know that by May 5 they will process documents for her release,” Ven Meta said. “When she comes out, we will be told what to do.”

Ven Meta said it was unclear if her sister will be permitted to sell products online, which is the primary income for the family. When VOA Khmer spoke to the Family in march, they were at risk of losing their family home, which was also used as an office to sell clothes online.

“When she came out, we don’t know how would we be instructed to sell, and in what way?” Ven Meta said. “The current [economic] situation now equal to zero.”

Y Rin, spokesperson for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, and Nuth Savana, spokesperson for Prisons Department, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Chim Channeang, deputy secretary general of the Cambodian NGO Committee on CEDAW, did not agree with government’s order to arrest and convict women for how they dressed, under the guise of protecting traditional values of Cambodian women.

She added that such arrests would only intensify social pressure on women to behave in a certain way, while not acknowledging that these women have been victimized.

“She could lose her business or when she returns. She would face embarrassment, meaning she would be withdrawn,” Chim Channeang said.

“It’ll drive our society to keep having a negative mindset towards women. Not only for her but for other women as well,’ she said.

Bunn Rachana, director of women rights organization Klahaan, said additionally it will be hard for Ven Rachana to earn an income because it was likely she would face discrimination and people would not value her or look down on her.

“Thus, the question is that whether such discrimination would see her as a culprit and harm her business,” Bunn Rachana said.