Thy Sovantha and Hun Manith: exposed complicity leaks to be investigated

By: Logan Connor - Posted on: November 30, 2016 | Cambodia

The discussion shows Cambodian social media star and political activist Thy Sovantha colluding with Hun Manith, the son of Prime Minister Hun Sen and head of the military’s intelligence unit

Leaked Facebook chats between Cambodian social media celebrity Thy Sovantha and Hun Manith, the head of the military’s intelligence unit and son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, have revealed the close relationship between the former opposition activist and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). The defence ministry said yesterday that it would investigate the authenticity of the leaks.

The chats, leaked anonymously Sunday in a 22-minute YouTube video, show Sovantha, who was once a staunch supporter of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), sharing plans for a demonstration against deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha regarding his alleged affair with a mistress.

“Bong Nith, on Tuesday afternoon at 2 pm we will march to the UN, the National Rescue Party [CNRP headquarters], then to Kem Sokha’s house,” Sovantha wrote. “I ask for 50 youth to march and drive their motorbikes.”

“I can’t let them join; don’t want it to leak,” Manith replied. “Don’t hide your force, Tha. Bring all of Tha’s youth to work and show how willing they are. My force is kept only for necessities.”

Sovantha sent a message, two days later, showing protesters gathered outside of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh. Manith then replied: “Haha… congratulations!”

Sovantha asked that same day: “Now thinking of another way to incite them. Bong Nith, do you have any ideas?” Manith sent back a laughing emoji.

Yesterday, Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat told the Phnom Penh Post that officials would investigate the leaks, although a CPP spokesman told the paper that he believed they were real.

Sophal Ear, author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, said that while Sovantha’s influence may have waned in recent months following her newfound support for the CPP.

“She once could have swayed the general electorate,” he said. “She could have been a contender. That she needed to ask for 50 youth to show up, even if she was dissuaded from stooping to that level, seems to suggest her star no longer shines so bright.”

Sovantha was a vocal CNRP supporter with a sizeable social media following before being accused of being a spy for the CPP in 2014. She disassociated herself from the opposition in March, following the release of audio allegedly involving Sokha and his mistress, and sued Sokha for $1m over comments he made about her during the leaked telephone conversation.

Sokha remains holed up in CNRP headquarters after being sentenced to five months in prison in September for failing to appear before the court.