Cambodian police ordered to prevent spread of music video about deadly crackdown

‘Blood Workers’ is a rap about police quelling a 2014 workers’ protest
By RFA Khmer
2023.01.06
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Cambodian police ordered to prevent spread of music video about deadly crackdown In this screenshot from rapper Kea Sokun’s “Blood Workers” video, Cambodian security forces beat a protester near a vehicle during the Jan. 3, 2014, demonstrations on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard.
RFA screenshot

Cambodia’s culture ministry has ordered police to prevent the spread of a music video called “Blood Workers” by a rapper that recounts a deadly government crackdown on a workers’ protest nine years ago.

The video by rapper Kea Sokun shows footage of the Jan. 3, 2014 protests in Phnom Penh during which police shot four people dead and wounded nearly 40 others. Some of the footage bears an old version of Radio Free Asia's logo, which was current at the time.

“For the past nine years they have been left with pain and sorrow and sadness by gestures full of blood,” Kea Sokun raps in the song, according to a translation by local independent media outlet VOD.

“There is no information and they do not know where they have drifted away,” he continues. “There is no one who knows, and they have been waiting for justice for the past nine years, waiting so long but there is no one held responsible.”

Cambodia’s Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona sent a letter to In a letter to Police Chief Neth Savoeun, and asked that he take steps to prevent the spread of “Blood Workers” on social media, citing its “inciting contents that can contribute to instability and social disorder.”

The letter also cited Kea Sokun’s criminal record. The rapper was arrested with another rapper in 2020 after they released songs that were critical of the government’s handling of border dispute with Vietnam and blamed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s lack of leadership for the country’s economic decline. 

The two were charged with “incitement to commit a felony or cause social unrest” under Article 495 of Cambodia’s Penal Code, and Kea Sokun received an 18-month prison sentence in December of that year. After an appeal was denied, he was released from prison in September 2021 and served the remainder of his sentence in suspension.

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In this screenshot from rapper Kea Sokun’s “Blood Workers” video, Cambodian security forces beat a protester during the Jan. 3, 2014, demonstrations on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard. Credit: RFA screenshot

Like many of Kea Sokun’s previous songs, “Blood Workers” did not break the law, said Am Sam Ath of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights.

“The song doesn’t have content that incites social instability,” he said. The Cambodia-based NGO shared the video on its facebook page to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the bloody crackdown, and to seek justice for victims of violence.

RFA was unable to reach Kea Sokun for comment.

Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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