The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday charged Kung Raiya, 28, and Suong Neak Poan, 29, for “incitement to commit a felony” based on Cambodia’s criminal code, according to human rights observers who followed the case.
If found guilty, the accused could face between six months to two years imprisonment.
Raiya, seen by rights group as an opposition supporter, was arrested on Tuesday after attempting to sell t-shirts on Facebook with images of political commentator Kem Ley. Suong Neak Poan, a supporter of Kem Ley, was arrested on Wednesday while he was distributing brochures to call for an end to “extrajudicial killings” near Kem Ley’s assassination site at Caltex gas station in Phnom Penh. The brochures were part of the commemoration of the third year anniversary of Kem Ley's killing.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager at local rights group Licadho, considered the charge as a “threat and intimidation” against Cambodian youth who support the slain popular analyst.
“The most important issue is that the arrest and charge is an act of restricting the freedom of expression of the general public,” he said.
Soeng Senkaruna, a spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, told VOA Khmer on Thursday that Kung Raiya didn’t intend “to commit any crime” like he was charged.
On Wednesday, dozens of civil society officials and human rights defenders rallied inside and outside the Caltex gas station mart, hoping to hold a Buddhist ceremony to pay homage to the soul of Kem Ley but their gathering was dispersed by police.
Seven people were arrested for commemorating the third anniversary of Kem Ley's assassination but five were released after they signed an agreement with authorities.
The Khmer Student Intelligent League Association said in a press statement that the arrest of Suong Neak Poan is “unreasonable” and constitute “banning of citizens’ free engagement in political activities and freedom of expression.”
In 2016, Raiya was sentenced to eighteen months in prison on the same charge. His conviction came after he posted a message on his Facebook account, calling for the public to stage a color revolution with him.