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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Candidate killing verdicts 'unjust'

Candidate killing verdicts 'unjust'

The Funcinpec deputy provincial governor of Kampong Cham has sharply criticized the

provincial court for its May 3 verdict in which two policemen identified as the killers

of a commune council candidate were acquitted.

Three other men were convicted of the killings of two commune council candidates

on the night of November 14 last year. The authorities claimed they were unable to

find two with military connections, resulting in their convictions being delivered

in absentia.

First deputy governor Thav Kim Long said the court's decision was unfair.

"The Kampong Cham court has not delivered justice," said Kim Long. "The

judge did not follow the law."

The royalist Funcinpec candidate, Thon Phally, was shot dead in front of his wife

November 14 last year. In court his wife identified two local policemen, Seth and

Veth, as the killers.

However the judge acquitted them, sentencing three other men to jail terms for two

killings carried out that night in Srolop commune. The other was of opposition Sam

Rainsy Party candidate Phoung Sopath.

"There were enough witnesses that accused [Seth and Veth] of killing Phally,"

Kim Long said. "Not least the victim's wife who pointed out the two men as the

killers. So why did the court free them?"

Judge Khieu San said the court had to ensure justice was done for both the victims

and the accused, and claimed that the testimony of Phally's wife was inconsistent.

He accepted the killers in both cases were the same men, but did not accept the killings

were politically motivated.

"I did not conclude the cases had anything to do with politics," he said.

"I think rather that they were down to revenge."

Yun Samoeurn, former militia chief in Srolop commune, was sentenced to eight years

in prison. Seth and Veth were acquitted and have been released.

The two men sentenced in absentia to 18 years in jail are Youn Thorny and Chorn Rotha.

Deputy governor Kim Long poured scorn on claims by local police that they were unable

to find them. Local people had told him the two convicted killers have been seen

in their home village.

Election analyst for UN Human Rights Centre, Adrian Edwards, told the Post the organization

was "very disappointed" with the acquittal of the two and said the case

was considered unresolved.

"This was very much a test case to see how the authorities deal with election-related

killings," he said. "It sets a bad precedent for the [national] election

scheduled for next year."

Edwards said his organization was concerned for the safety of the widows of the assassinated

candidates.

"We are not letting this one go," he said. "We have a presence in

Kampong Cham and are going out to visit the commune and the surrounding areas where

this happened.

"It is clearly very worrying when the legal process and the criminal process

haven't found all the culprits, yet the people [in the commune] have to see those

people who were intimately involved."

He said the UN had asked the authorities to ensure retribution is not meted out to

the two women. As for the inability to find two of the suspects, Edwards said a clear

pattern had emerged that where military personnel were involved, those accused were

not dealt with properly.

"These two men should have been found," he said," and we would have

liked to see a determined effort on the part of their military superiors that [they]

be found."

Phally's widow, Soy Tha, has returned home, and is living in fear of retribution

by Seth and Veth. She told the Post that she would leave her village if she saw the

two men, both of whom live nearby.

She has filed an appeal against the verdict, but has not received official confirmation

that her appeal has been requested.

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