Chhoeun Chanthan, the former chief of Senate president Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit, will spend the next 10 years in prison after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday convicted him of charges including possessing illegal weapons and forging public documents.
Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post
Chhoeun Chanthan appears before a military court in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.
Judge Keo Mony also ordered Chhoeun Chanthan, who was in a military court the previous day on separate charges, to pay a fine of 5 million riels (US$1,250).
“He possessed machine guns, pistols, bullets, ammunition and related military materials, which were confiscated from his house,” Keo Mony said.
“He has the right to appeal this sentence to the Court of Appeal if he dislikes the decision.”
Chhoeun Chanthan was charged after his arrest on August 13 with illegally possessing weapons and ammunition; issuing weapons and ammunition licences to people who were not deemed competent to use them; faking public documents; and using those fake public documents.
Military police arrested the 41-year-old at his luxury residence in the capital’s Chamkarmorn district, where they seized ammunition and weapons including an AK-47 and two machine guns.
Chhoeun Chanthan maintained his innocence yesterday and said he would appeal.
“The court’s decision was very unjust and I cannot accept it. I will appeal this verdict and sentence,” he said.
“I did not commit these crimes as accused.”
Put Theavy, Chhoeun Chanthan’s defence lawyer, said the allegations had not been proven.
“He was the commander of a top leader’s bodyguard unit, and he kept only several weapons and ammunitions temporarily in his house to protect his leader – and he’s been sentenced to 10 years in prison for it,” he said.
“As a commander of Samdech Chea Sim’s Bodyguard Unit, it was Chhoeun Chanthan’s duty to grant permission to his soldiers to use pistols, guns or ammunition for their missions. It was not wrong,” he said.
Chhoeun Chanthan appeared in a military court on separate charges on Wednesday where he was accused of using a dead man’s identity to gain a high-ranking RCAF position and embezzling about $1.5 million from the government.
The military court will deliver its verdict on February 24.
Chhoeun Chanthan is the fifth official close to Chea Sim who has been criminally convicted in recent months.
In December, four top advisers to the Senate president were sentenced to varying prison terms in December for a large-scale fraud scandal.