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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sin Sen: 'The fall guy'

Sin Sen: 'The fall guy'

SIN SEN'S lawyer Kar Savuth has accused the military court of being unjust in slapping an 18-year sentence on his client while other coup plotters found guilty were given suspended sentences.

Savuth said he would appeal the court's decision within 60 days "to find justice."

"I only demand justice," Savuth said on behalf of the former Interior Ministry Secretary of State .

"If all the masterminds are imprisoned, and my defendant was also imprisoned, I would not find it necessary to protest."

Sin Sen's subordinate Tea Choy and nine Thai nationals were found guilty of conspiracy for their part in the July 2 coup d'état attempt but were given suspended sentences.

Savuth also accused the government of being unjust to let one of the coup ringleaders - Prince Norodom Chakrapong - to leave the country and to free six other generals involved.

Chakrapong fled to Malaysia one day after the failed coup, then to France via Thailand.

Yet another coup leader, Sin Song, escaped from a Ministry of Defense "safe house" in early September and has not been seen since (see accompanying story).

The military court sentenced Chakrapong and Sin Song in absentia to 20 years each and another eight high-ranking military officers who also fled the country were given 15 year sentences in their absence.

"The constitution states citizens are equal before the law", Savuth said on Oct 28 after the court hearing ended.

Savuth still denies that his defendant was involved in the coup attempt, saying: "It was possible that the escapees laid blame on my defendant because there was no proof, just somebody's word."

The military court judge, General Ney Thol, said according to numerous accounts, evidence and witnesses, it was true all suspects had taken part, led by ringleaders Chakrapong and Sin Song, in an attempt to overthrow the government.

Relying on King Sihanouk's request to pardon the nine Thais, the court suspended their sentences ranging from two to five years. They have all flown home.

Tea Choy was given three suspended sentences because he acted under direct orders from Sin Sen, who was the commander taking overall responsibility for the coup's security arrangements.

Sin Sen will be held in Phnom Penh's T3 prison where he had been detained during the trial.

The court heard that he ordered Tea Choy and others to deploy troops and 12 tanks throughout the city.

Two tanks were to be deployed near the CPP party headquarters, two at the police defense department, two adjacent to Chaktomuk Hall, two at Wat Phnom, two near the Council of Ministers and two at a cross road near Lok Sorng hospital on the way to Ponchetong.

Sin Sen himself also controlled special troops to order and arrest the co-Prime Ministers, General Ney Thol said.

Around the Defense Ministry where the trial was being held security was very tight.

Soldiers armed with rifles guarded the building and at the court entrance others, including a group of Thai journalist and a lawyer, had their bags checked and were frisked.

Inside the court confiscated property used in the coup attempt was displayed as evidence.

On a platform were four propeller grenades, two loud speakers, wire cutters and a pile of camouflage military uniforms.

Photos of other seized property were displayed on a board.

Those seizures included: 14 Land Cruisers, five radio antennas, six battery chargers, 63 walkie talkies, 44 weapons, 906 bullets, 223 sets of camouflage uniforms, 20 Soviet-made grenades, one Canon camera, a battery, a typewriter, a photocopier, two computers, $59,000 and five million riel, two fax machines, a printer, two belts for climbing electricity poles, ten rolls of scotch tape, an automatic wire cutter and four manual wire cutters, various electric appliances, a mask, ten bulletproof jackets and two maps.

In prosecution, the court choose 11 witnesses out of 37 who were from both the Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry to illustrate the plot.

One witness, Secretary of State of Defense Ministry Chay Sang Yun (CPP), described Sin Song's plan to plot the coup.

He said the coup was staged to counter an unspecified plot to bring back the Khmer Rouge.

"Therefore, we cannot delay to conduct the coup for the date and time was fixed by Sin Song. He chose July 2, 1994 at 9 pm."

Sang Yun told the court that Sin Song said the coup process would be to cut off the electricity supply and to cut all phone lines.

Sang Yun said Sin Song considered these goals to be very important in the bid to arrest the co-Prime Ministers.

He said Sin Song told him to use police and military forces, together with special Thai forces, to arrest three generals.

The police forces later would be arranged by Sin Sen and military forces by himself, Chay Sang Yun said.

Sang Yun said Sin Song also told him that the special Thai forces had nerve weapons to trouble the eyes and make it easy to capture the generals.

After one hour they would have declared a "Temporary Reconciliation Government" which would be led by Chakrapong and Sin Song.

Sang Yun said around 10 am on the day of the coup he was asked to Hun Sen's house while he was at home with two Thais nationals sent by Sin Song's man.

There Hun Sen said he knew they wanted to stage a coup, so Sang Yun confessed to all the events.

Another witness Bou Thang, a member of Parliament, said Sin Song came twice to his house to ask him to take part in the coup and gave him $40,000.

Bou Thang said he told Sin Song: "I don't know, I am unable to the job" but he took the money.

"I took the money as proof then I gave it to military authorities," Thang said.

The rest gave almost similar accounts to the court.

Kar Savuth defended his defendant that every arranged plan was to confront the Khmer Rouge.

But it was the coup ringleaders who used money to turn police forces to take part, he said.

Clearly, he said, Sin Song gave $40,000 to Bou Thang and $20,000 to Chay Sang Yun.



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