A Cambodian rap artist whose song about social injustice has gone viral said Friday that he is under heavy surveillance by authorities and fears for his safety.
Chhun Dymey’s song “Sangkum Nis,” or “This Society,” contains lyrics about widespread graft, forced evictions, poverty, gun violence and oppression, and calls on Cambodia’s youth to “wake up” and take control of the country’s future.
The song went viral on social media on May 13, prompting police to visit his parents’ home in Trapang Ses village, in Siem Reap city’s Kochork commune, and allegedly deliver a warning to the 24-year-old musician.
Chhun Dymey, who performs under the moniker Dymey-Cambo, or Khmer for Life, removed the song from Facebook and YouTube after the police visit, and pledged to stop singing it, but said Friday that authorities continue to stake out his parents’ home, causing him to fear for his safety.
“They send one person [at a time] to briefly monitor us when they know that we are home,” he said, adding that the observer “reports about us to their bosses and then leaves.”
“My situation now is uncertain and I feel uneasy. I am still worried about my safety and I am still being pressured [by the authorities].”
While Chhun Dymey removed the song from social media, his fans have continued to share it amongst themselves on Facebook, including acting chief of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy.
Chhun Dymey said he had requested that Sam Rainsy remove the song from his Facebook page, but has yet to receive an answer.
Meanwhile, Chhun Dymey told RFA, the university where he is a first year student of information technology has threatened to expel him and the hospital where he works has warned him that he will be fired if he continues writing songs critical of the government.
Violation of rights
Siem Reap Provincial Police Commissioner Tith Narong told RFA Friday that he had not sent any officers to monitor Chhun Dymey, although he acknowledged that the Provincial Military Police might have.
“I issued no order for my officers to keep an eye on that young man,” he said.
“The singer has been questioned by the military police unit, not my police unit. So the issue is now being handled by the Provincial Military Police.”
RFA was unable to reach the chief or spokesman of the Provincial Military Police, or provincial governor Tea Seyha, Friday for comment.
Am Sam Ath, head of investigations for the Cambodian rights group Licadho, told RFA that the monitoring by authorities amounted to “intimidation and a violation of human rights,” and urged them to stop pressuring Chhun Dymey.
“It’s a form of threat and intimidation against him and his family, and it’s a violation of his rights because he has done nothing wrong,” he said.
“He has received all kinds of pressure and Licadho will continue to follow his case closely while monitoring his safety and that of his family.”
The Phnom Penh Post recently quoted Suos Narin, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, as saying that he would investigate the case to see whether there was a ban or threats made against Chhun Dymey, and if so, it would show that Cambodians’ freedom of expression is being muzzled.
“The song doesn’t have any bad intentions. It just shows the reality of how society needs to improve. It’s not about politics,” he told the Post.
“This act will ensure our youth never dare to speak out and, if they do, they face dangerous consequences.”
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.