Rapper Kea Sokun says he was not guilty of incitement. (Photo: YouTube)
Rapper Kea Sokun, whose controversial lyrics and songs were critical of the Cambodian government, has been granted early release from prison after spending almost a year behind bars for an incitement conviction.
“Going back, I would not have said sorry,” the 23-year-old told Voice of Democracy through a translator after his release. “Because I believe that I did not do [incitement] like what they said.”
One offending song has garnered more than 4.2 million views on YouTube and under Cambodian law warranted an 18-month jail term, minus time already served. One of his songs is titled I’m opposed to the dictator.
More than 150 people have been charged with incitement over the past year after the government initiated a crackdown on dissent, arresting opposition politicians, artists, activists and netizens for incitement, allegations of creating “fake news” and attempting to topple the government.
Their arrests included a 16-year-old autistic boy, the son of two opposition figures from the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), who was arrested in late June. He faces up to two years in jail if convicted.
The UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia, Vitit Muntarbhorn, is among three UN experts urging authorities to release the boy, Kak Sovann Chhay.
Children with disabilities accused of breaking the law should be treated in line with the best interests of the child
They also said he had been interrogated without a lawyer or guardian, a charge rejected by officials, after his arrest for sending messages on Telegram that had allegedly insulted officials.
“We strongly appeal to the Cambodian government to release this child and to ensure that his human rights are protected,” Muntarbhorn said.
“Children with disabilities accused of breaking the law should be treated in line with the best interests of the child, and every effort should be made to keep them out of jail.”
However, the government-friendly Fresh News service said the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia in Geneva was disturbed “by personal views of a handful of special rapporteurs” as to the law application over a specific case.
In an apparent reference to the case, it added that the Cambodia Mission had emphatically dismissed their groundless allegations against Cambodian authorities due to their politicized, selective and misleading remarks.
It also said UN objections were tantamount to an affront to the separation of powers and the independence of the Cambodian judiciary, which is ranked 127th out of 128 countries by the World Justice Project (WJP), one place above Venezuela.
“The special rapporteurs’ demand for the government to release anyone is tantamount to an affront to power separation and independence of the judiciary, guaranteed under the constitution, and to national sovereignty,” Fresh News quoted the mission as saying.
According to the WJP, its rankings were based on constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.