Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Two Taiwanese Who Filmed Fake Kidnapping in Sihanoukville Sentenced To Two Years Imprisonment

Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities hold a press conference to show the two suspects, Chen Neng Chuan and Lu Tsu Hsien, and items seized from their hotel, at provincial police headquarters on February 15, 2024. (CamboJA/Den Seymar)
Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities hold a press conference to show the two suspects, Chen Neng Chuan and Lu Tsu Hsien, and items seized from their hotel, at provincial police headquarters on February 15, 2024. (CamboJA/Den Seymar)

Two individuals from Taiwan were sentenced to two years’ jail and a fine of $1,000 each by Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court for allegedly creating and sharing fabricated videos on human trafficking, detention, torture, rape and the sale of human organs on the internet. 

On February 15, 2024, the court, which heard the case, found 31-year-old Chen Neng Chuan, and Lu Tsu Hsien, 34, guilty of incitement to cause serious social unrest.

The two men allegedly came to Cambodia with the aim of producing “dramatic videos” on “human trafficking, detention, torture, rape and the sale of human organs”.

According to the provincial court, the two men acted and filmed it live on February 12, 2024 from a building in Sihanoukville, using a “Facebook account belonging to Wa An Xiao Ji, who was beaten by security guards”.

On February 13, 2024, the two men again did a live broadcast from a building in China Town in Sihanoukville, where they filmed themselves being “chased and assaulted while shouting for help”.

After hearing and examining the evidence, Prosecutor Lieutenant-General Sar Rotha of Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court decided to charge Chen and Lu under Articles 494 and 495 of the Penal Code.

They were sent to trial and immediately sentenced for inciting to cause serious social unrest in Village 6, Sangkat 4, Sihanoukville on Thursday. Attempts to seek comments on the immediate punishment were futile as the court could not be reached.

At a press conference, Kouch Chamroeun, Preah Sihanouk governor, said the authorities saw a video circulating online which showed “someone” allegedly being kidnapped and asking for help.

He sent the video to the Sihanouk provincial police to check and upon investigation, found that it happened in Sihanoukville. The provincial police chief assigned several teams to check and investigate with cooperation from the prosecutor to find out the location where the “incident” occurred.

“We have seen another where Chen also shared a scene where they were on the run in the locations where [the supposed crime] occurred,” Chamroeun said.

Investigators managed to find their Facebook page, where they took their photos and shared them on Chamroeun’s Facebook page to urge people to provide information if they had seen the two men.

“I would like to thank the public for giving us immediate information as it helped our police take action to find these two people quickly,” Chamroeun said.

Based on the information they received, the authorities found the hotel they were staying in and brought them in for questioning. They also found many materials and tools. The authority also gathered visuals from street CCTVs.

According to Chen and Lu’s alleged confession, Chamroeun said, “the plan was to come [to Sihanoukville] to film [scenes] relating to kidnapping and confinement. This was their plan since the middle of January.”

They arrived in Phnom Penh on February 11 and hired a taxi which they had booked in advance. They were driven around, touring some locations in Phnom Penh.

The first place they wanted to visit was Victoria International Hospital because they believed it was abandoned but it was occupied. They then went to Grand Duke Hotel (previously known as InterContinental Phnom Penh Hotel) but it was also not abandoned.

So, they decided to go to Sihanouk province instead. They passed through Toek Thla in Phnom Penh where they stopped to buy things like army uniforms, hats, shoes, masks before making their way to Sihanoukville. 

In Sihanoukville, Chamroeun said, Chen and Lu allegedly went to check some buildings before taking a break. At 8pm on February 11, they came upon building X in the Otres Beach area and were interested in filming there. 

In the afternoon of the following day, Chen and Lu kicked off their plan by buying toy guns and red pens to “make the scenes look real”. They went out again with army uniforms and other materials to building X on the night of February 12 to start filming.

In the first clip, Chen acted out a kidnapping scene, pretending to be “chased, attacked and tortured”.

“Chen was acting like the victim and he asked Lu to wear the army uniform to chase and torture him. So, he ran halfway before turning off the live telecast. His goal was to show that he was arrested by the authorities or security in those locations,” he said. Later, Lu changed out of his uniform and hid them on different floors in the building and returned to the hotel.

The next day, both of them left about 1pm for the same location. “This time, he set himself up with an injury scar by coloring his hair […] After filming, they returned to the hotel. Their activities were an incitement to cause serious chaos to social security.” 

Chamroeun said the men allegedly admitted to “doing everything by themselves” and the purpose was to “attract more viewers so they can sell their product”. “Their goal to obtain more viewers affects our national security. We cannot tolerate it.”

He urged everyone who saw the videos to know that it was disseminated by the two men who wanted to raise their social media profile.

“But the real situation here [Sihanoukville] is that we are living in peace, and it’s a safe and happy place. There are no individuals who have been affected by security issues here,” Chamroeun added.

On Thursday, the Sihanouk provincial police posted on Facebook that the men allegedly jointly produced fake videos to attract attention on social media, especially TikTok, where they have more than five million followers and views.

“The videos they produced in Sihanoukville including escapes from arrests and torture, ghost videos and other videos are fictional. The public is scared and confused, especially those living abroad who wish to visit Sihanoukville. In fact, this did not happen. The suspects did this to attract or get more viewers,” their Facebook page said.

Following the arrest, the police confiscated a mask, a plastic gun, paramilitary uniforms, a mobile phone, live video and recording equipment.

Am Sam Ath, operation director at rights group Licadho, said other Asean countries and international community, including Japan have cooperated with Cambodia to arrest and repatriate criminal suspects.

“We have seen reports published in other countries about cyber scams and civil society organizations supporting the crackdown, prevention of cyber crimes, online fraud and other online crimes.”