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Sentence for Angkor ‘incitement’ upheld

A controversial jail sentence handed to the head of a cultural organisation for suggesting a lighting project at Angkor Wat was damaging the temple was upheld by the Supreme Court yesterday.

Moeung Sonn, director of the Khmer Civilization Fund, was sentenced to two years in jail and fined 15 million riel (US$3,615) after raising concerns that workers installing lights at the 12th-century temple had drilled holes deep into the structure’s walls.

The lawsuit, brought against him by the government, was upheld on appeal yesterday, even though the obsolete 1992 UNTAC penal code charge of disinformation was amended to incitement last May.

Moeung Sonn, who has lived in self-imposed exile for the past three years, called the Cambodian legal system “hopeless” and said he would move to France to escape punishment.

“It is unfair for me, and Cambodian people are afraid when the legal system listens only to the lawyers of the powerful people,” he said.

Government lawyer Pal Chandara told journalists outside the courtroom yesterday  the verdict was “justice for the government”.

“The verdict offers justice for the government, which pays much attention to public security,” Pal Chandara said.

He has previously argued that Moeung Sonn threatened this security by falsely suggesting the APSARA Authority, which manages the World Heritage Site, had installed 2,000-watt bulbs when it had used only four-watt bulbs.

Moeung Sonn’s lawyer, Sok Sam Ouen, has argued that his client merely raised concerns that the project – contracted out to Chinese firm Suchin – could affect the beauty, safety and body of the temple.

A petition thumb-printed by representatives of 347 communities, including those from the Borei Keila and Boeung Kak eviction sites, was handed to the Supreme Court yesterday, calling for justice by finding Moeung Sonn not guilty.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tep Nimol at tep.nimol@phnompenhpost.com

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