The U.S. is condemning the jailing of a teenager in Cambodia who was convicted in connection to messages he shared on social media that were critical of ruling party officials.
Sovann Chhay, 16, who is the son of a detained member of the political opposition and an activist, was sentenced Monday to eight months in prison, according to Reuters. His indictment included charges for insulting public officials, according to France 24.
He will spend four months and 15 days behind bars, with the rest of his sentence being suspended, Reuters reported.
Rights groups said Chhay is on the autism spectrum, according to Reuters.
Patrick MurphyPatrick Erin MurphyFormer Cambodian prime minister Norodom Ranariddh dies at 77 US condemns teen's jailing in Cambodia over social media posts What happened to Marco Rubio, Time mag's 'Republican Savior' of 2013? MORE, the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, denounced sentencing "a child to prison time for what appears to be politically motivated charges."
“How does jailing the teenage son of a opposition figure demonstrate respect for human rights?” Murphy asked in a tweet.
I am saddened to hear the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today sentenced a child to prison time for what appears to be politically motivated charges. How does jailing the teenage son of a opposition figure demonstrate respect for human rights?— Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy (@USAmbCambodia) November 1, 2021
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said Chhay’s jailing is “outrageous and unacceptable.”
“The conviction against 16-year-old, autistic Sovann Chhay is outrageous and unacceptable on so many levels and signifies a new low in Prime Minister Hun Sen's witch hunt against his political opponents,” Robertson said, according to Reuters.
Chhay had reportedly been scheduled to leave prison this month but is now under probation for two more years. In that time he will be ordered to sit before the court when called, tell the court if he changes his address and ask for permission to depart the country, in addition to other stipulations, Reuters reported, citing the local rights group Licadho.
The conviction comes as Cambodia is cracking down on internal opposition, civil society and the media.
The nation made unrelated headlines last month when officials asked the Metropolitan Museum of Art to explain how it acquired dozens of Khmer Empire antiquities that they believe were stolen from the country during war, pointing to new evidence.