A Photoshop Job Of Cambodia’s King May End In Arrest

The pending legal action reflects on how far internet freedom has fallen within the country this year

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamon attends the 2016 Water Festival — REUTERS
Jan 03, 2017 at 1:02 PM ET

Cambodian police have announced they are planning to arrest three suspects for sharing a photoshopped image of King Norodom Sihamoni. The image was alleged to be doctored to show him situated in a gay porn scene. The photo, which was posted to Facebook on Dec. 25, was viewed in both Cambodia and Thailand, according to the BBC.

The current investigation and pending arrests reflect on the negative trajectory of internet freedom in Cambodia. According to Freedom House’s annual Freedom on the Net report, Cambodia has experienced the third steepest decline of all countries in the world in this regard in 2016. Several people were arrested for Facebook posts last year, and the Prime Minister recently stated that “it’s not very difficult” to find Facebook users who criticize government policies on the social networking site, and that it can be done “in a matter of hours.”

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Members of both the Interior Ministry and the National Police’s cybercrime division confirmed that the suspects, one of whom is residing in Thailand, are being actively pursued for the purpose of arrest.

“Insulting the king is a crime… the king represents the whole nation and they are insulting the king, which is like they are insulting the whole nation,” a spokesperson of the country’s Interior Ministry told the Cambodia Daily.

While Thailand has strict laws in place that dictate the way monarchs and government personnel are publicly discussed (including online), the South China Morning Post noted that Cambodian officials were unable to cite any specific law against insulting the king, saying only, “If we don’t take action against [those responsible,] more people might follow in their act.”

Interestingly, Sihamoni’s father, the king before him, once publicly thanked critics for their insults after he announced that he was in favor of gay marriage back in 2004, according to the Cambodia Daily. Sihamoni has been rumored to be gay since his ascension to the throne in 2004. His mother once noted that he “loves women as his sisters,” Public Radio International noted.