A Kampong Thom farmer missing from police custody since January has been found
hiding at a relative's house, relieving fears held by human rights groups that
foul play may have been involved in his disappearance.
Eip Thien, 39,
was recaptured on March 3 in Siem Reap province and sentenced on April 11 to 18
months imprisonment for illegally transporting timber and ordered to pay two
million riel ($500) to a forestry chief he allegedly assaulted.
judgment from the court is fair for me. I accept it," said Chey Sitha, chief of
Forestry Administration in Stung district, Kampong Thom, who Thien allegedly hit
with a buffalo-herding stick.
Sitha said that if Thien's family asked
him for a pardon he would consider forgoing the two million riel
Thien's family and several human rights monitors said the
sentence was unfair and were considering filing an appeal.
began on January 12 when two of Thien's nephews were stopped by forestry
officials as they transported two cubic meters of valuable beng timber in a
Thien, a former Khmer Rouge soldier, arrived on the
scene a few minutes later and an argument took place.
According to a
January 25 report compiled by three human rights groups, Chey Sitha, Stung
district forestry chief, grabbed the buffalo's reigns, causing the surprised
beast to strike him in the left eye with one of its horns.
however, said it was Thien who caused the injury by beating him with a stick
used for controlling the buffalo.
Thien continued home with his nephews,
but he was arrested an hour later when Sitha went to his house with four
He was beaten, handcuffed and taken to the district
military police headquarters, according to the report made by Licadho, Adhoc and
Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association in late January.
night, Thien asked to go to the toilet and escaped.
Human rights groups
were concerned for the man because they could not get information from the
military police and said it was unlikely a shackled suspect could escape so
"We can't say if the victim is killed or if the victim is
alive... we're worried about the security of the victim," said Ham Sunrith, a
Licadho prison monitor, at the time.
Thien was found March 3 in a
neighboring province and quickly sentenced by judge Touch Sakhoeun of the
Kampong Thom court.
Thien's wife, Eip Nath, said the court did not provide a
lawyer for her husband, nor did it call any witnesses to testify.
court decision is very unjust for my husband," Nath said.
Nath said she
has no hope of paying the fine because she still owes ACLEDA bank $3,000 plus
interest on a loan, but said if her husband was released from jail she would
sell their land and house to raise the cash.
Chan Soveth, monitor for
Adhoc, said the court did take into consideration the actions of the military
police, as they had hurt Thien and confiscated his buffalo carts.
said he will visit Thien and ask him if he wants to file an appeal or accept the
He said the 18 months imprisonment is acceptable, but the fine
will seriously affect his family because they are very poor.
talk to him, and if he needs a lawyer we will provide for him. We are already
prepared," Saveth said.
Kul Chhoeun, military police commander of Stung
district, said he investigated Thien's case and knew he was alive and hiding
somewhere at a relative's house. He said Thien's wife did not cooperate with the
Chhoeun said he had filed defamation charges against Nath
at the provincial court on March 27 over her allegation that police had killed
"I asked 10 million riel [$2,500] for defaming me and other
military police," Chhoeun said.
Chhoeun said the deputy governor of Stung
district, Phou Lik, had asked Nath many times to bring Thien back to police, and
said they would reduce his punishment, but she did not follow their