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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Groups hail army convictions

Groups hail army convictions

Groups hail army convictions

T HREE soldiers were sentenced to between 10 and 13 years imprisonment by the

Kratie provincial court on May 23 for killing three civilians, including a seven

year old child. The conviction is seen as a small victory by human rights

organizations who took it as a test case in making the military more

accountable.

"The military usually act like they are above the law,

trying them for their misdeeds is very rare," says one foreign legal expert.

"The fact that they were tried is itself very encouraging."

The three

soldiers and their superior officer from the 22nd battalion in Kratie went on

trial for intentional manslaughter for killing three civilians and wounding

three others in Ban Teay village after a personal squabble.

According to

the human rights organization Vigilance, which investigated the case, four

soldiers Chan Reasmey, Mil Chan Vibol, Chan Thy and Ron were directly involved

in the killings. Ron escaped capture but Chan Reasmey and Chan Thy were given 13

years each, and Mil Chan Vibol 10.

Lieutenant Ear Kim Srin, their

commanding officer, who was held responsible for their behavior, will be tried

separately for violating army regulations by a military court.

The

incident occurred after a quarrel at about 4:30 pm on April 11, when a group of

eight soldiers from Battalion 22 came into the village and one of them,

reportedly Chan Reasmey, demanded a chicken from one of the villagers. The

villager apparently said his chicken had died.

The group left, but the

four soldiers returned at around 7:30 pm when a group of villagers were watching

a video outside. The soldiers were reportedly completely drunk and threatened to

kill a commune policeman on their way to the village.

One of the

soldiers then fired directly into the crowd of villagers watching video with his

AK 47. Another soldier reportedly used a B-40. They were arrested in mid- April

and turned over to the civilian court on April 21.

Vigilance, while

welcoming the prompt action and the military authorities' co-operation with the

civilian court, added in a statement, "It is hoped that this case will serve as

a lesson to the military not to abuse civilians."

Observers say the

arrest was made because wide publicity was given to the case in the media and

pressure was applied on the authorities by the villagers with the help of local

human rights organizations.

The villagers are reportedly afraid the

soldiers will escape from the Kratie prison, and the prosecutor's office has

asked that they be transferred to T3 prison in Phnom Penh. Vigilance has

requested security for the villagers.

While this trial is seen as an

exceptional case, two other killings have largely escaped public notice and the

accused have not been arrested.

A prisoner in Kratie provincial prison

was reportedly killed by a prison guard, who later said the prisoner was trying

to escape. Other prisoners present at the spot, however, refuted this claim.

The incident took place in late March in a field outside Kratie prison

where inmates grow crops. A local human rights organization said that despite

investigations by the Ministries of Justice and Interior, the guard Touch Darin

has not been arrested.

In fact the organizations say he has received a

promotion.

One source who visited the area and spoke to the guard said he

was unrepentant. "It is unlikely that anything will be done without instructions

from the Ministries, the case will simply be buried," the source said.

A

third killing last month of a Funcinpec policeman has seen a similar fate.

The policeman was apparently murdered after a personal dispute with the

son-in-law of the deputy district chief in Kratie. The deputy chief belongs to

the CPP.

While no political motive has been established, the accused has

not be arrested even though police conducted an investigation the next

day.

One source who visited Kratie says that there are people who wish to

prosecute both the accused, but are afraid of the consequences.

"Such

people have no support from the local police or authorities, and none from

Ministries in Phnom Penh. They are alone and are afraid to take risks or speak

out," the source says.

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