The autistic teenager jailed over a Telegram post

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ASPartOfMe
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21 Sep 2021, 9:29 am

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Life hasn't been easy for 16-year-old Kak Sovann Chhay.

He has autism and his family says he barely spoke until he was nine. At school in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, other children would mock him, and he would usually spend his lunchtimes alone, clearing up rubbish on the playground to kill time.

"When he talks with us, he only says one or two words," says his mother, Prum Chantha, a human rights activist.

Although a boy of few words, Sovann Chhay developed a passion for politics and Cambodian history - little surprise given his family history.

His father, Kak Komphear, who is currently jailed, was a senior member of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the country's outlawed political opposition. Mr Komphear would take his son to opposition party events.

Sovann Chhay decked out his bedroom with CNRP flags, alongside other memorabilia including pictures of Jayavarman VII, the most powerful king of the Khmer Empire.
But now his bedroom is a cramped jail cell which he shares with around 20 others. He hasn't seen his family in almost three months.

He was arrested after getting into an argument on a message group on the Telegram app. The contents of the conversation are not fully clear, but Ms Chantha says her son reacted angrily when a pro-ruling party member of the group called her husband a traitor. The man, a Cambodian living in Canada, then forwarded the messages to authorities, according to the teenager's lawyer.

An hour later, around 20 police officers surrounded the family home, some with AK-47s. Six officers entered the house without a warrant, put Sovann Chhay in handcuffs and dragged him into a waiting car, Ms Chantha says.

This is not the first time Sovann Chhay has been targeted.

He was also arrested in October after climbing into the CNRP's abandoned former headquarters to collect flags for his room. He was released two days later, but only after government mouthpiece Fresh News broadcast a "confession" in which he apologised for "causing mischief".

And in April, he was admitted to hospital with a fractured skull after two men on a motorbike hit him with a brick. The assailants have not been found, but the attack bore similarities to recent ones against opposition supporters.

But Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesman San Sokseyha told Voice of Democracy in June that the arrest and detention of the teenager was in line with the law.

The teenager's lawyer, Sam Sokong, is the only person permitted to visit him in jail.

Sovann Chhay's trial starts on 29 September.


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


Fnord
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21 Sep 2021, 9:48 am

Cambodia's use of incitement laws to jail anyone critical of the Cambodian government sends a threatening message to news outlets, as well as private citizens -- Cambodia's vaguely-worded incitement law is often used against detractors of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.



slam_thunderhide
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21 Sep 2021, 12:28 pm

Stuff like this happens regularly in the UK and the USA.

Several people arrested for "right wing terrorism" (and to a lesser extent "Islamic terrorism") in the West have been autistic youngsters goaded into making inflammatory comments online by undercover security service agents.

When I saw the title of this post, I assumed it was going to be about one of these cases. It is kind of grimly amusing seeing the media make a big fuss about "government tyranny" in non-Western countries and ignoring the same stuff going on here in the West.



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21 Sep 2021, 7:46 pm

in britain, you can get jailed for treason against the US for posting stuff online, even if you're neither British nor American, and held in solitary confinement for years without trial....


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09 Nov 2021, 8:11 am

Teen Remains Jailed Over Social Media Comments Criticizing Father's Political Opponent

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Kak Sovannchhay, 16, the autistic son of jailed political activist Kak Komphear, was arrested last week on charges of incitement to commit a felony and public insult. The

Authorities previously said that Sovannchhay would be released on November 8. However, they later told his mother, Prum Chantha, that his release was delayed.

Sovannchhay's autism has also been a contentious factor in the case. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court claims that medical confirmation of his autism was received during his trial. However, critics are accusing the court of refusing to evaluate his disability and support needs.

Kak Sovannchhay is expected to be released from jail on November 10.

Many criticized the verdict, including U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy, who said in a Twitter post that the case seemed to be "politically motivated."


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09 Nov 2021, 10:50 am

slam_thunderhide wrote:
Stuff like this happens regularly in the UK and the USA.

Several people arrested for "right wing terrorism" (and to a lesser extent "Islamic terrorism") in the West have been autistic youngsters goaded into making inflammatory comments online by undercover security service agents.

When I saw the title of this post, I assumed it was going to be about one of these cases. It is kind of grimly amusing seeing the media make a big fuss about "government tyranny" in non-Western countries and ignoring the same stuff going on here in the West.


The truth is that this world hates autistics. This is why they make laws like this, and arrests autistics.

I wish an asteroid would hit Cambodia, as well as any other country mistreating autistics.



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09 Nov 2021, 11:50 am

It has not much to do with his autism.

It has almost everything to do with his opposition to the powers-that-be in Cambodia.



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09 Nov 2021, 12:01 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
It has not much to do with his autism.

It has almost everything to do with his opposition to the powers-that-be in Cambodia.


Yeah, plenty of NTs have been jailed unfairly for speaking against the powers-that-be in countries with repressive governments, too.



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09 Nov 2021, 2:25 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
It has not much to do with his autism.

It has almost everything to do with his opposition to the powers-that-be in Cambodia.


Autism affects the way the brain handles cognitive information, ie. it's harder for an autistic to withhold statements which are true (or believed as such) than it is for non-autistics (NTs).

NTs can be liars, it's more difficult for an autistic to be a liar.

So when autistics get jailed for any crime (including not being a liar, where being a liar may be mandatory in some countries), they're not spared because of their disability. This is how the hatred against autistics works.

His disability is not being taken into consideration. It applies not only for autistics, but everyone with psychological disorders who come into contact with the police and law/justice.

For example, in Saudi Arabia, it is required of you to be a liar. You have to say that a "prophet" named Muhammed spoke the truth - it is obviously a lie.

But it's no different from any other crime or failure to meet obligations and demands/requirements of citizenship/residence in any country.



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09 Nov 2021, 3:50 pm

I agree that this person's "filter" is probably virtually nonexistent. I used to have a nonexistent filter, too.

But his harassment has more to do with his family's political opinions than his autism.

I agree that it is false that a "prophet named Muhammad spoke the truth." Just like I believe it is false that Jesus resurrected from the Dead 3 days after His Crucifixion. But the "powers that be" believe in Islam---so it's not "false" to them, unfortunately. It's a hard business living in a place that believes one "truth," while you believe another.

I feel it's a miscarriage of justice to keep that kid in prison. I feel like the world should use every means to get him released.



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09 Nov 2021, 3:56 pm

It must be illegal to criticize the political leader. We can do that in the US and it's allowed without being thrown in jail for it.


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10 Nov 2021, 9:09 am

Autistic Cambodian teen, jailed for online comments, freed

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An autistic Cambodian teenager vowed Wednesday to continue to fight for his father's freedom after completing his own prison sentence for social media comments critical of the government in a case that has attracted international attention.

Kak Sovannchhay, 16, pumped his right arm in the air saying “Long live Cambodia” to supporters while hugging his mother after he walked out of the Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

He clutched a bouquet of red roses and lilies tightly to his chest and smiled shyly as reporters snapped photos of him.
Kak Sovannchhay told reporters that he was excited to be free but that he would keep defending his father and his beliefs.

“I won't stop,” he said. “ I will continue my course.”


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman