Initially defiant, Japan-based opposition activist Vanna Hay, who wrote on his Facebook page that the late deputy prime minister Sok An should “rest in hell”, yesterday apologised for his comments following pressure from his parents and a threat by government spokesman Phay Siphan to take legal action.
Despite the apology, however, Siphan said he would still lodge a complaint with the court. “We’ll let the judge decide,” he said.
Vanna, whose Facebook page describes him as a “political activist” who is “fighting together with the CNRP”, took aim at the late minister for the Council of Ministers on Wednesday after his death from a long illness was announced publicly. In one post, he claimed that “almost every Cambodian” was happy about Sok An’s death.
He added that “we all hate [these] sucking guys”, and that Chea Sim – the late CPP president and Senate head, who died in 2015 – and Sok An “are in HELL and soon Hun Sen will go to meet them”.
Speaking yesterday, Vanna at first stood by his remarks posted on the social media site, which set off an exchange with Siphan, who yesterday announced via his own page that he intended to sue the 30-year-old.
But just after 5pm, the social media activist, whose timeline is filled with posts critical of the government, wrote on his page that he wanted to “apologise publicly for what I have written for affecting Sok An’s reputation”.
Reached following the later post, Vanna said he had spoken to his parents in Cambodia, who were concerned about the ramifications of legal action for the family and who had last year been visited by police enquiring about his activities abroad.
He said he would still stand against “high-ranking officials who abuse their position to do business” but wanted to take down the “rest in hell” remarks. “I apologised because of my family’s safety,” he said from Tokyo, where he works for an energy firm.
“They called me to say they are concerned that if I am sued they will be called to court and they do not want to get in trouble.”
Reached yesterday, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said he had tolerated Vanna’s previous attacks on Facebook but said the remarks against Sok An went too far.
Asked what law had been broken, he said his lawyer would decide on the wording of the complaint, but called Vanna’s comment an “insult” and “harassment” against “our culture”, and also cited “defamation”.
“Before, I let him [put messages on] my [FB] page. I respect freedom of expression, but this time it’s not freedom of expression, it’s against our direct culture,” Siphan said, citing the mourning period for Sok An.
Meanwhile, CNRP lawmaker Lim Kimya also issued an official apology to the family of Sok An on Saturday for comments critical of the late minister made in a private, seemingly tapped, telephone conversation with an opposition senator.
Reached yesterday, Kimya said his comments, including saying Sok An “strangled people to be rich”, were a “bit excessive”, though noted he was speaking privately with a friend and that the continued tapping and release of phone conversations was “unacceptable”.
The recording was the latest in what has been a steady stream of covertly recorded phone conversations of political figures seemingly gleaned from phone tapping and leaked online by Facebook user “Seiha”.