The Interior Ministry said on Sunday it had identified and was seeking to arrest three suspects involved in posting an image online of King Norodom Sihamoni’s face inserted into a gay pornographic scene along with the message “Cambodia King is gay.”
On December 25, the day the doctored image was posted to Facebook by a Thai-speaking user, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Cambodia would consider asking the Thai government for help.
King Norodom Sihamoni speaks during an anniversary celebration for the NGO Krousar Thmey in Phnom Penh in February. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)General Sopheak could not be reached on Sunday. But in an interview on Saturday with Radio Free Asia, broadcast on Sunday morning, he said authorities were pursuing three suspects, one of whom was living in Thailand.
“We have identified some suspects, two living in the country and one living outside; they worked in a group,” he said. “Insulting the king is a crime we consider equal to insulting the Khmer nation.”
The general did not identify the suspects or explain how authorities tied them to the image.
So Bunsou, a deputy director of the National Police’s cybercrime department, confirmed that authorities were attempting to arrest the suspects, but declined to elaborate.
King Norodom Sihamoni, front left, at the Phnom Penh Royal Railway Station on Friday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)Cambodia’s Constitution says the king is “inviolable,” or too important to be treated with disrespect, though no national law prescribes any form of punishment for the offense.
In a previous interview, Gen. Sopheak said he did not know how those involved would be punished if caught.
Sam Chankea, spokesman and senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, said on Sunday that he was not aware of anyone ever being punished for insulting the Cambodian king.
He said anyone involved in making or posting the recent image should be punished, but not as severely as in Thailand, where several Thais have been given yearslong prison terms under their much stricter lese majeste laws.
Mr. Chankea said the altered image was a symptom of a general moral decline in Cambodian society, which he blamed in part on the conduct of the country’s political leaders.
“Morality, I think, should start with the high-ranking government officials, and the normal people will follow them,” he said.
sokhean@cambodiadaily.com
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