Wife says detained critic willing to apologize for online comments

Badly beaten in September, Ny Nak was arrested after making critical remarks about government ministries.
By RFA Khmer
2024.01.08
Wife says detained critic willing to apologize for online comments Ny Nak, an agricultural expert and critic of the Cambodian government, and his wife, Sok Synet, are seen in a social media post, Nov. 18, 2023. (Facebook/Nak Ny)
Photo: RFA

The wife of a detained government critic who was severely beaten by thugs in September said on Monday that her husband regrets recent Facebook comments he’s made and wants to apologize to Prime Minister Hun Manet and his father, former Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Sok Synet said in a Facebook video that Ny Nak, an agricultural expert who goes by pseudonym IMAN-KH, admitted wrongdoing during her visit with him at Prey Sar prison near Phnom Penh.

“He really regrets and knows his mistake,” she said in a Facebook video. “I ask Samdech Father and Samdech Hun Manet to help my husband to be able to issue an apology message and then help my husband to be free to participate in political life with the government in the agriculture sector.”

Samdech is an honorific often used for the prime minister. Hun Manet was appointed to the office in August after his father, Hun Sen, resigned after leading the country since 1985.

Numerous government critics and opposition activists have made public apologies and in-person appeals for forgiveness to Hun Sen in recent years after they ran into legal trouble following criticism of powerful Cambodians.

In September, Ny Nak was badly beaten by about eight assailants on the streets of Phnom Penh just hours after he panned a Ministry of Agriculture report on rice prices. No one has been arrested in the attack.

Ny Nak previously served an 18-month jail term for comments about Cambodia’s COVID-19 restrictions. After his release last year, he resumed his Facebook posts about the government.

Heng Sour’s complaint

Last week, Ny Nak posted a comment that mocked a Ministry of Commerce statement about registering 10,000 new companies in the new year as it seeks to encourage investment in Cambodia.

On Friday, he was arrested on charges of incitement and defamation. 

The arrest was based on a criminal complaint from Minister of Labor Heng Sour.

Ny Nak has mentioned a man named Heng Sour in other Facebook posts about a government land transaction, although it was unclear if he was referring to the minister of labor. Heng Sour and Hun Manet have denied that the government has given land to the minister.

On Monday, Ministry of Commerce deputy chief of Public Relations and Communications Borapich Serei said in an email to Radio Free Asia that her ministry has had “absolutely no involvement or connection to the incident or the individual mentioned.” The email was sent in response to RFA’s story on Friday about Ny Nak’s arrest.

Ros Sotha, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, said Ny Nak may be facing pressure to issue an apology.

“The first pressure is the pressure of physical suffering that has not yet received justice,” he said, referring to the September street attack. “The second pressure is the pressure on him that he is being imprisoned for a public defamation charge.”

Ny Nak’s arrest is “yet another example of the systematic persecution of an outspoken government critic who is peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

“Ny Nak has done nothing that he should be arrested for, and the authorities should immediately drop the charges against him, and release him,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

RFA was unable to reach Sok Synet for comment on Monday.

Translated by Sum Sok Ry. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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