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Cables reveal US positivity

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Meas Nary in February last year. The court sentenced her to 20 years in prison – the maximum under human trafficking laws – for her role in detaining and abusing an 11-year-old girl.

DIPLOMATIC cables from the United States embassy in Phnom Penh released online yesterday by Wikileaks cast developments in two high-profile court cases last year in a positive light.

One cable, signed by Ambassador Carol Rodley and marked “unclassified/for official use only”, recounts in detail the conviction of three Cambodians for the trafficking and physical abuse of an 11-year-old girl, one of the Kingdom’s first human-trafficking prosecutions.

On February 19 last year, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chan Madina gave Meas Nary the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for purchasing the girl, forcing her to work as a domestic servant and beating her repeatedly.

Meas Nary’s husband, Va Savoeun, earned a 10-year sentence for failing to do anything about the abuse, and Thoeung Reth received a five-year term for selling the girl to the couple in 2008 for US$400.

The cable, sent on February 23, said the verdict “showcases the improving capacity of the court to evaluate the circumstances of a complex case and use the 2008 [Human Trafficking] Law to obtain significant punishment.”

It continued: “Moreover, the widespread publicity coupled with the sophisticated protection mechanisms employed in this case could serve equally as a deterrent to employers and as a training case for police and other interventionists”.

The International Labour Organisation said that the case was a “rare example of authorities rescuing a domestic servant from an abusive situation at the hands of an employer”, according to the cable.

Another cable, also signed by Rodley with the same classification, reported on the acquittal of Radio Free Asia reporter Sok Serey for disinformation charges in February last year.The complaint stemmed from a November 2008 radio report by Sok Serey about a dispute between Rim Math and about 200 members of his mosque in Takeo province.

The sentiment expressed in the cable echoed comments at the time by observers who hailed the acquittal - which noted that there was no “malicious intent” as required by the 1992 UNTAC penal code, the prevailing law at the time.

The cable was sent on the same day as the ruling, February 19, and said the outcome “would be a welcome sign of new-found sophistication by a provincial court”.

“Other courts usually do not evaluate whether malice was present in a particular incident when ruling on a case,” the cable said.

Nearly 800 documents from the US embassy in Phnom Penh are among more than 250,000 cables from US diplomatic sources around the world that Wikileaks claims are in its possession.

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