The Interior Ministry said on Wednesday it would not open an investigation into violent threats against deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha—apparently made by youth activists aligned with the ruling party—unless a complaint was filed.
The decision stands in stark contrast to the ministry’s speedy response last year to a similar threat made against a researcher working for the government, leading to an arrest and six-month prison sentence for the threat-maker.
Posts have appeared over the past week on the Facebook pages of both Thy Sovantha and Srey Chamroeun—who for months have been hounding Mr. Sokha over claims that he had a mistress—showing Ms. Sovantha apparently firing a gun and saying that bullets were being saved for Mr. Sokha.
“There are a few,” one of the posts to Ms. Sovantha’s page said, alongside images of several guns and her shooting. “Kem Sokha, please be careful.”
Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak said authorities did not know if the threats were actually posted to Facebook by the activists, and would not try to find out unless “interested parties” filed a complaint.
“Well, the conflict, whether it is Thy Sovantha or not, I don’t know,” he said, noting that it was possible that the pages had been hacked or manipulated by others.
“How can we investigate? We have no complaint from the interested parties—that is, the two parties,” Gen. Sopheak said, clarifying that he was referring to the activists and ruling CPP, on the one hand, and Mr. Sokha and the opposition CNRP, on the other.
The government has not needed complaints to launch other probes, such as its aggressive investigation into Mr. Sokha’s alleged marital infidelities, which was sparked by recordings posted anonymously to Facebook.
Sok Touch, an academic who was the target of a Facebook death threat in September last year, said on Wednesday that he did not file a complaint with the police, but they nonetheless arrested a 27-year-old migrant worker for threatening him.
Police should promptly investigate the threats against Mr. Sokha, he said. “If Thy Sovantha did it, I think our society has to apply the law.”
Mr. Chamroeun and Ms. Sovantha could not be reached. CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the activists were not officially involved with the party.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party had no plans to request an investigation into the threats.
“We are not interested because it does not benefit the country,” he said of the Facebook threats. “We do things that benefit our nation, for our next generation. Please stop thinking about useless things.”
Political analyst Ou Virak said apparent death threats against the most prominent opposition politician in the country were absolutely a national issue, but that the CNRP was right to leave it to authorities to investigate.
“It would be a national issue if the threat is real. It should be,” he said. “If the ministry is aware of it, they need to investigate. That’s the responsibility of the state.”
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