Two weeks after leaving prison, two soldiers from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Personal Bodyguard Unit convicted for a vicious public assault on two opposition lawmakers were promoted in rank, a sub-decree signed by the premier shows.
Sot Vanny and Mao Hoeun, who together with fellow bodyguard unit soldier Chhay Sarith confessed to attacking Cambodian National Rescue Party lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea in front of the National Assembly in October last year, were elevated from lieutenant colonel to colonel on November 17, according to the document.
The pair’s advancement, which carries a $7 pay bump, according to salary figures for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, came a fortnight after they, and their co-accused, left Prey Sar prison, where they served just 12 months of a mostly suspended four-year sentence.
Despite military regulations prohibiting soldiers from undertaking any activities that breach the “honour or integrity” of the RCAF, Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat yesterday defended the continued service of the men.
“They had already served their punishment in compliance with the law . . . and they have corrected themselves to be good people,” Socheat said.
Regarding the promotions, he said, advancements were vetted by a committee that assessed soldiers’ performance.
“And they must receive what they deserve for their good performance,” he said.
Reached yesterday, Saphea, whose nose was broken and eardrum ruptured in the attack, said the men should have been fired. He slammed the CPP’s “culture of impunity” and said the promotions were also slap in the face for veteran soldiers who had served in the military for years.
“The one who commits wrong gets away with it, while the victims do not get proper justice,” he said.
Video footage shows Vanny, Hoeun and Sarith among a group of at least 16 men who dragged the lawmakers from their cars and beat them bloody in the street after an anti-opposition rally outside the assembly, which had been alluded to the night before by Hun Sen.
Despite the wealth of evidence, police failed to arrest more attackers, while judges at the trio’s trial banned questions about the group’s bodyguard superiors before sentencing them to serve only 12 months of a four-year sentence.
Hun Sen denied involvement in the attack, while the bodyguard unit initially denied it employed the men, who maintained at trial they were not under orders, but had reacted to an insult by their victims.
Reached yesterday, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said the promotions were yet more evidence to the contrary.
“This is obviously the pay-off for services rendered for doing Hun Sen and the CPP’s dirty work,” Robertson said.
“What we’ve seen is denying that these two were part of the Bodyguard Unit changing now to this sweetheart promotion in exchange for continued loyalty and silence about who was really behind the attack on the two CNRP MPs.”