Heng Pov (L), a former Phnom Penh municipal police chief, enters the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh in June 2012. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
Imprisoned former Phnom Penh municipal police chief Heng Pov has converted from Buddhism to Christianity, his lawyers and court officials announced on Friday.
Serving a 103-year prison sentence on charges including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and extortion that he denies, Pov was drawn to Christianity because it offered more hope for someone who had experienced many injustices and false charges, his defence lawyer Kao Soupha said yesterday.
Phnom Penh Law Firm lawyer Kao Ty said Pov had converted to Christianity in 2010 but had only publicly announced his conversion now.
“According to the court’s documents, Heng Pov changed his religion from Buddhism to Christianity in 2010,” Ty said.
Pov, a former secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, has not shied away from public changes of heart in the past, giving an interview with French weekly L’Express shortly after his fall from grace in 2006 in which he blasted Hun Sen’s regime, and reversing his rhetoric to praise the prime minister in a 2010 book that was widely considered a plea for clemency.
According to a security guard in Prey Sar prison: “Heng Pov decided to become a Christian because he hated injustice and bad people and had been the subject of injustice and false accusations.”
The guard, who did not wish to be named, said Pov had become a Christian through contact with foreign fellow prisoners who were Protestant.
“Heng Pov had previously been a devout Buddhist and spent several thousand dollars in 2001 to build a large stupa in Siem Reap province,” he said.
Upon announcing his conversion on Friday, Pov asked the court to make preparations so that in future cases in which he is a defendant or witness he can swear on a Bible rather than at a stupa, Tan Senarong, vice-prosecutor of the Court of Appeal, said.
Heng Pov could not be contacted for comment yesterday. In June, he told the Post that he had been set up by five other government officials.
“I believe in God and am not angry with those people who directed false accusations at me. Now four of my five accusers are already dead because of their sins,” he stated.
To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at firstname.lastname@example.org