Preah Sihanouk woman accused of insulting Hun Sen with Facebook poem

Former CNRP activist Sao Osaphea was summonsed by her commune chief on Wednesday for allegedly insulting the premier in a Facebook past. Facebook
Former CNRP activist Sao Osaphea was summonsed by her commune chief on Wednesday for allegedly insulting the premier in a Facebook past. Facebook

A former CNRP activist was summoned for questioning by her local commune chief for allegedly insulting Prime Minister Hun Sen in a Facebook post, which contained a poem making an oblique reference to a "brutal" thief with one eye.

Sao Osaphea, who supported the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party in Preah Sihanouk province, was summoned by Okhna Heng Commune Chief Kao Leng over the alleged insult posted to her profile, which is called “Saphea Mayura”.

Osaphea's short poem refers to spoiling fruit and to a "thief" selling off land and forests.

“My homeland’s trees are full of cheap, overripe things in the world; and there is no other brutal thief in the world selling trees and land because of only one eye,” reads the poem, posted on May 1.

Hun Sen has repeatedly been accused of failing to curb rampant illegal logging and land grabs, and lost his left eye decades ago, reportedly while fighting for the Khmer Rouge during the siege of Phnom Penh.

Osaphea said she was questioned by the commune chief on May 2, calling it a violation of her freedom of expression, maintaining that her poem was only using the imagery of a spoiled banana causing a ripe banana to lose its value.

“I said I did not insult any individual, but he still put the fault on me that this was an insult to someone,” she said, adding that she had to agree to not insult the premier in the future.

Commune Chief Leng refused to comment on the incident, insisting a reporter visit the commune for any additional information.

The government has been quick to arrest, and in some cases imprison, those who make online posts that it considers insulting to the premier. A man was arrested on his wedding day in February for calling the government “authoritarian” for its crackdown on the CNRP, and a UN-recognised refugee was deported from Thailand that same month to face jail time for posting a video of herself throwing a sandal at a ruling party billboard.