Cambodian authorities have also detained four opposition politicians, according to HRW, while a local rights group and police sources said a 14-year-old girl was among more than a dozen people arrested. She was released soon after questioning with no charges.
The surge in arrests in Asia focused on coronavirus misinformation has come after various countries toughened laws or introduced new ones on so-called fake news.
“Regulating misinformation by either introducing new legislation or by expanding the scope of existing laws has been the trend in Asia for the last few years,” said Masato Kajimoto, a journalism researcher at the University of Hong Kong.
The pandemic has accelerated this because a crackdown can be perceived as protecting public health, rather than infringing on freedom of speech, he said.
In Thailand, a state-of-emergency decree passed in late March criminalized sharing misinformation online about COVID-19 that could “instigate fear”.
This is on top of the Computer Crimes Act, which has a five-year maximum jail penalty and is often used to stifle dissent online.