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General sentenced to 4 years

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Samuth Virak, former deputy director of the materials department at the Defence Ministry, is sentenced yesterday.

Nearly 11 months after his arrest, General Samith Virak was sentenced to four years in jail by the Military Court on charges of hiding illegal weapons and impersonating a three-star general.

Separate charges of enlisting illegal military personnel and inciting people to oppose authority were dropped last week by deputy prosecutor Mok Sieha.

Samith Virak, the former deputy director of the materials department at the Ministry of Defence, was also fined 8 million riel (or about US$2,000), while four co-defendants received sentences of one to three years.

Judge Nou Samedy told the court that, based on the evidence and strength of the witnesses’ testimony, the quintet was found guilty according to article 20 of the law on the control of explosive weapons as well as article 614 of the penal code.

“[Samith Virak] has the title of a high-ranking military officer in the Royal [Cambodian] Armed Forces, and [possessed] knowledge that should have made him a good example in the army, but his dishonest aims seriously damaged the order and discipline of the military,” Nou Samedy said, adding that he had falsified his rank by displaying the uniform of a three-star general in his home.

The sentencing for the general’s alleged compatriots included a 3-year jail term and 6 million riel fine for Poeuy Pel, two years and a 4 million riel fine for Chao Sokhon, and one-year sentences for Chea Tol and Im Chhay.

The verdict also stripped Samith Virak, Poeuy Pel, Chao Sokhon and Chea Tol of their military rank.

Nach Try, lawyer for Samith Virak, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Virak’s wife, Bou Chhouk Vuth, said she will appeal the verdict, claiming the accusation against her husband is without real evidence.

“The accuser who accused us is a person who has conflict [with us]. It is not just for my husband,” she said. “I want [the court] to convict the accuser, because the person who accused us had stolen our tractor, so he has rancour.”

At last week’s hearing, witnesses Khun Tam and Sing Samuth accused Samith Virak of hiding and transporting illegal weapons and enlisting illegal soldiers.

However, both allegations were denied by the general, who told the court that the men accused him because they bore grudges.

Virak claimed that Khun Tam had stolen his tractor and been imprisoned by Siem Reap provincial court.

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