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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Innocents blamed and jailed as outlaws

Innocents blamed and jailed as outlaws

T WO documented cases where human right groups say innocent people have been

"shaken down" and jailed for being "Khmer Rouge" have turned the spotlight back

on the controversial KR outlaw bill.

Human rights activists say it is yet

too early to draw a pattern from the cases, though they are monitoring such

incidents closely.

Human rights workers say that provincial police and

judiciary do not have copies of the KR outlaw bill and therefore could not know

how to use it properly.

"Extorting money from people whom (police) accuse

of being KR has gone on for a long time in Cambodia," said one human rights

worker.

"Because of the passage of this bill there should be a greater

obligation on the government's behalf not to have this law abused."

Also,

it is typical for alleged KR members to be held at police stations, rather than

in prisons. The number of KR "suspects" now being held is unknown.

A

human rights report details how two suspected Khmer Rouge, Koeng Sara, 38, and

Seth Peth, 34, had confessions beaten out of them before being sentenced to 25

years apiece in Battambang jail.

In July, the pair were transporting

goods from Poipet to Phnom Penh when they were arrested without warrants,

accused of laying mines that killed one and injured 13 others, the report

said.

After being held for seven months they were charged with murder,

unlawful possession of weapons and being part of the Khmer Rouge.

The

report says there were no eyewitnesses nor material evidence against the pair.

Their defense was not allowed to ask questions or read the police

report.

Sara and Peth testified they were tortured. Peth said he was

stripped, his arms tied and kicked while being asked if he would still continue

to lie.

"A gun was pointed at his head and... he was beaten on the head

with a gun," the report said.

Told that if he did not say "the correct

things" in court or he would be killed, Peth signed the demanded confession, the

report said.

A defense witness, a nurse, testified that Sara was

suffering from malaria and could not move at the time he was said to have laid

the mines.

In a second recorded incident, in Kompong Speu, police

unlawfully arrested 11 "KR supporters" and immediately freed nine of them after

they paid fines ranging from 36,000 riel ($14) to 200,000 riel ($80).

Two

accused farmers, Dol Kann, 51, and Jun Aem, 47, both had their confessions

beaten out of them by police, according to a second report.

Kann's

relatives paid 125,000 riel ($50) and a cow to release him, but to date both

Kann and Aem remain in police custody in New Oral district.

The bill

outlawing the KR attracted fierce debate when it was passed in July last year,

and a group of MPs rallied against it because they were concerned it could be

abused.

At the time, Justice Minister Chem Snguon guaranteed that no

person would be charged with being Khmer Rouge without sufficient evidence.

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