Supreme Court hears CNRP activist’s bail request

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Former CNRP Kong Mas in Prey Sar prison in January. Photo supplied

The Supreme Court held a hearing on Monday to review the case of former CNRP Svay Rieng provincial committee head Kong Mas, who was detained on January 19 in Phnom Penh for posting content on social media insulting Prime Minister Hun Sen.

He promised that he will not oppose the government if he is granted release on bail.

The court report said Mas, 31, posted a message on Facebook in April last year, which “insulted” Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership.

In the post, he claimed that he would print “more than 100,000 copies of the leaflet” which would be distributed in Svay Rieng province asking people not to vote – referring to a leaflet created by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, which urged an election boycott.

“The current government – which is controlled by Hun Sen – takes actions against opposition parties which are kinda overly barbaric. I will not go vote. I’ll keep my hands free – hold a pen and teach the Cambodian children, that’d be more fruitful,” his Facebook post read.

The court report said that an ensuing police investigation led to his arrest. Mas was sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for “insulting” under Article 502 of the Criminal Code, which is punishable by one to six days in prison and a fine from 1,000 to 100,000 riel ($0.25 to $25).

He also was charged with “incitement to commit a felony” under Article 495 of the Criminal Code, which is punishable for between six months and two years in prison and a fine of between one and four million riel. Mas has been detained in Prey Sar prison since.

The court report said Mas asked to be released on bail, but the Phnom Penh Municipal Court denied his request on January 30 and issued a warrant, which put him under the court’s supervision.

At the Supreme Court hearing on Monday, Mas – without his defence lawyer present – told the judge that he requests the court to release him on bail due to illness. He said he has high blood pressure and needs to earn money to support his wife and mother.

“I promise that if I am granted release on bail, I will not do anything to oppose the government. When I composed the message criticising the prime minister, the CNRP had only recently been dissolved – I was young and belligerent. I promise that I will not flee from Cambodia,” he said.

Prosecutor Veng Bunthoeun said: “The convict was charged by the lower court for ‘insulting’ and ‘inciting’. If we allow him to be released on bail, it will affect the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s current investigation procedures. I ask the court to uphold the verdict of the Appeal Court.”

Presiding Judge Khim Ponn said the Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on Friday.