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Military court sentences Chhoeun Chanthan

The jail time is piling up for the former head of Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit.

A week after earning a 10-year sentence from Phnom Penh Municipal Court for crimes including forgery and illegal weapons possession, a military court today sentenced Lieutenant General Chhoeun Chanthan to 26 years in jail and ordered him to pay well north of US$3 million to parties affected by various embezzlement schemes.

Chhoeun Chanthan’s conviction and sentence stemmed from five charges: breach of trust, intentional destruction and embezzlement of state property, illegal distribution of weapons, destruction of military materials and lacking consciousness and responsibility when leading a unit.

Poak Porn, president of the Military Court’s trial council?, ordered Chhoeun Chanthan to pay $2 million to General Yim Leang, new bodyguard unit commander for Senate president Chea Sim and his representative in the court; $749,836 to civil plaintiff Meas Kimheng; and $897,750 to Ngeth Sarin, representing the Ministry of National Defence.

He was also fined 10 million riel [about $2,500] that will be put into the state’s budget.

Poak Porn additionally ordered that land that had once belonged to the government including a former camp for Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit and property in Kandal province be returned to the Ministry of Defense.

At his trial on February 15, the court heard that Chhoeun Chanthan had promised to pay $2 million for the land but never made payment.

Also known as Mao, the 41-year-old former bodyguard chief for Chea Sim and deputy commander of the Mixed Chief of Staff at the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, stands to lose significant personal assets if he is unable to pay as ordered.

Poak Porn said in the event that Chhoeun Chanthan cannot pay, the court will confiscate and auction off properties including two homes in Phnom Penh, a plot of land located in Prek Ek district’s Ang Kanh village and any property belonging to Chhoeun Chanthan’s import/export business.

Chhoeun Chanthan yesterday maintained his innocence, adding that he cannot accept the verdict, which he considers unduly harsh.

“I cannot accept the military court’s decision, because I have not committed the offences as accused. I think that the court’s verdict is an injustice,” he told reporters outside the court. “I will appeal it to the Court of Appeal.”

Orn Hing, defense lawyer for Chhoeun Chanthan, also said that he could not accept the sentence.

“I think that the military court’s decision was very harsh for my client, and I cannot accept it. I will talk with my client about the possibility of appealing it to the Court of Appeal,” he told the Post.

General Yim Leang, new commander of Chea Sim’s Bodyguard Unit, could not reach for comment yesterday. His attorney, Nach Try, declined comment, telling the Post that he was “not aware of the court’s decision.”

Chhoeun Chanthan was arrested on August 13 along with three bodyguards at his luxury residence in Boeng Keng Kang III commune in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmorn district.

Police seized a cache of weapons and ammunition including an Okano gun with three cases of bullets, five pistols, one AK-47 assault rifle, a machine gun, more than 1,400 bullets, and a large amount of military uniforms and other related military materials in his house.

On February 16, 2012, Chhoeun Chanthan was sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to 10 years in jail and a fine of 5 million riel, about $1,250.

Charges in that case included possession of weapons and ammunition without permission; issuing licenses for weapons and ammunition to persons who are not competent; forging public documents; and the use of those faked documents.

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