Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Convicted killers of labor leader released pending retrial

Convicted killers of labor leader released pending retrial

Convicted killers of labor leader released pending retrial

20083112-hengchivoan-bs_sso_release.jpg

The Cambodian Supreme Court released the two men convicted of assassinating outspoken union leader Chea Vichea -- Born Samnang, 24, and Sok Sam Oeun, 36 -- and sent their case back to the Court of Appeal for further investigation pending a retrial, citing contradictory evidence in the prior trials.

Sok Sam Oeun’s father, Vuon Phon, told the Post, “I’m very happy and excited that my son was released with a big smile”.

The two men have been in prison for nearly five of their 20 year-sentences.

The two men’s prosecutor, Chhoun Chantha, remained adamant about their guilt, telling reporters, “It’s normal for the accused to find ways to fool the court in order for them to be released from their punishment”.

But around the courtroom, he was in the minority. When Judge Dith Monty, the court president, announced the ruling after the four-hour hearing, the audience listening to the proceedings outside the courtroom burst into applause, ecstatic that the two men would have another chance at freedom.

Though the convictions were widely and repeatedly condemned by local and international rights organisations, many were expressed surprise at the court’s announcement.

The executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, Sok Sam Oeun (no relation to the defendant) was stunned.

“I feel strange and surprised, because I never trusted the independence of the Supreme Court. I hope this means the judiciary in Cambodia is improving” he said.

Suon Seth, the executive secretary of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, told the Post, “This is a day that Cambodians can be proud of the court”.

But he warned, this decision may not represent a significant change in Cambodian judiciary. “When they say they will conduct a new investigation, they will find nothing, and it will take years.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Government approves plan to relocate Phnom Penh’s airport

    The government has signed off on a proposal to build a new airport to serve Phnom Penh and has earmarked land in Kandal province for the $1.5 billion project. A new international airport to replace the existing Phnom Penh International Airport will be constructed on partially

  • American convicted of raping boy, 10, in Siem Reap

    A 79-year-old American man was sentenced to one year in prison for raping a 10-year-old boy by Siem Reap Provincial Court on Wednesday. John Paul Zollbrecht, of Washington state, was sentenced to one year in prison while a Cambodian man who helped facilitate the abuse, 23

  • Cambodia: From pet project to problem child

    As international condemnation began to pour in earlier this month lambasting the Supreme Court’s decision to dissolve the country’s largest opposition party, ruling party elites were quick to ask: Why us? In an op-ed published by the Khmer Times, ruling Cambodian People’s