Cambodia makes 1st arrest on charges of insulting monarchy

In this Nov. 9, 2017, photo, Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni greets his government officers during the Independence Day celebrations, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A Cambodian school director has become the first person to be arrested on Saturday, May 12, 2018, on charges of insulting the monarchy after posting comments on Facebook critical of the authoritarian government. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
In this Nov. 2, 2017, photo, Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni greets government officers as he watches the boat races during a water festival, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A Cambodian school director has become the first person to be arrested on Saturday, May 12, 2018, on charges of insulting the monarchy after posting comments on Facebook critical of the authoritarian government. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, file photo, Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni greets government officers as he watches the boat races during a water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cambodia's Cabinet has endorsed a law making insulting the king a criminal offense punishable by monetary fines and up to five years in prison. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A Cambodian school director has become the first person to be arrested on charges of insulting the monarchy after posting comments on Facebook critical of the authoritarian government.

The law protecting the monarchy was passed in February. Critics say it further erodes freedom of speech and political activities, already under stress from Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

Police said Khieng Navy was arrested in his home Saturday and could face five years in prison if convicted.

He is accused of posting comments online that allegedly insulted King Norodom Sihamoni by suggesting he was behind the November court decision to disband the main opposition party to benefit Cambodia's enemies.

Sihamoni is a constitutional monarch with a minimal role in public affairs, while Hun Sen exercises almost absolute control over politics.

The Kampong Thom provincial court formally charged Khieng Navy with "insulting of the monarch," said a statement released by the investigating judge, Khorn Kosal.

Offenders of the law on lese majeste, or insulting the monarch, could be punished by one to five years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million riels ($2,500).

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