While American rappers like YG and Nipsey Hussle have the right to criticize future presidents in songs like “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump),” Cambodian artists do not have the same freedom to criticize the government without facing prison time.
According to Radio Free Asia, Kea Sokun was detained in September 2020 for insulting the government and was sentenced to 18 months in prison by a Cambodian court on Wednesday (June 16). The rapper, who is 23 years old, was first sentenced in December for “incitement to commit a felony or cause social unrest” Article 495 of the Cambodian Penal Code.
Kea Sokun was detained for his lyrics in the songs “Khmer Land” and “Sad Race,” the former of which has received four million YouTube views and addresses Chinese investment in Cambodia, government rights violations, and the Cambodian-Vietnamese border.
He will be released in the next two months after serving nine months of his sentence, with the remainder of his term to be served in suspension.
Kea Sokun’s father, Phal Kea, expressed his disappointment with the rejection of his appeal “We thought the Appeals Court would drop the charges or reduce the prison term but instead the court upheld the verdict. We are so disappointed. I am sad because it is very unjust, I cannot believe the court upheld this verdict.”
The case, according to the American Bar Association, is part of a wider trend of the Cambodian government suppressing alternative viewpoints.
“While Sokun’s case raises issues concerning his rights to fair trial and freedom of expression, it is not an aberration in Cambodia,” the ABA said in a report. “It is one of many in a recent crackdown on young activists by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). In recent years, the Cambodian government has intensified its curtailment of rights and civic freedoms and rapidly escalated its attempts to close civic space.”
It kept going, “Frivolous criminal charges are used to stifle dissidents and critical voices. Although Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliamentary body, one ruling party has dominated the political system for decades.”
Despite the fact that YG was not sentenced to prison for his song “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump),” law authorities did intervene to suppress the song and the rest of his Still Brazy album.
“The Secret Service called in on Universal and was like, ‘Send me the lyrics to YG’s album because we gotta see what he’s talking about,’” In 2016, the Compton rapper revealed to DJ Whoo Kid on his Whoolywood Shuffle podcast.
“They did the whole album. That’s why on ‘FDT’ on the album, it’s parts of the song that I had to blank out. Then on the next song ‘Blacks & Browns,’ when Sad Boy’s spitting his shit—he said some shit towards Donald Trump too—they heard that, and we had to either change it or blank it out, so we put the static noise on top of that.”
He added, “But yeah, it was a real situation going on. Ever since John F. Kennedy got assassinated, they can’t have no people promoting kill Trump, shoot Trump, pop Trump, all that. And we had those types of lines up in the song.”