Cambodian Police Arrest Student For Facebook Threat to Blow Up Deputy PM

cambodia-taosavoeun-09292015.jpg Tao Savoeun (center) poses with unnamed classmates during his graduation in Siem Reap, September 26, 2015.
Tao Savoeun’s Facebook page.

A Cambodian University student, who was arrested by provincial police in Siem Reap after he threatened to kill Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng on social media, has confessed to the plot to throw a grenade at the government official during the school’s graduation ceremony, the local police chief said Tuesday.

Police arrested 26-year-old Tao Savoeun, who lives in the province’s Slor Kram district and attends Southeast Asia University, on Monday after they discovered his purported plan to kill Sar Kheng, who is also head of the Ministry of Interior.

Two days before, the student had written on a friend’s Facebook page that he intended to kill the government official with a grenade as he presided over the school’s commencement exercises on Tuesday.

The event was attended by more than 1,000 students and guests, according to a report by the Khmer Times.

The comment he posted said, “When Samdach [honorific title for Sar Kheng] arrives, I will bombard, and we all will die together.”

The student gave no indication he had a specific grievance with Sar Kheng. Police didn’t provide any details about Tao Savoeun’s motives, saying only that he had confessed to posting the threat.

“He has confessed that he wrote [the threat] by himself,” said Siem Reap police chief Thang Sakhun, adding that police have charged Tao Savoeun with attempting to kill with a grenade. “No one forced him to do so. His statement reflects an ill-intentioned attempt to throw a grenade to kill people.”

Suon Sopanha told RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday that he was questioning Tao Savoeun about his motive for the threat, and would question him again on Wednesday.

Government authorities have arrested two others this year for making comments on Facebook against government officials.

The Ministry of Interior, however, has failed to arrest any suspects in a case involving a death threat against Kem Sokha, vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in 2013 when his party and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) were in a political deadlock following contentious elections in July.

Police originally investigated a Facebook account supposedly belonging to Pheng Vannak, a senior official in the Ministry of Interior, but later said the account was a fake and declared that he was not involved in the threat.

In the meantime, Tao Savoeun’s Facebook account remains active and indicates that he is studying tourism to be a tour guide.

Reported by Khe Sonorng and Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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