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Sok Bun strikes a bargain with ‘Ms Sasa'

Former TV presenter Ek Socheata appears at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in July of last year.
Former TV presenter Ek Socheata appears at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in July of last year. Vireak Mai

Sok Bun strikes a bargain with ‘Ms Sasa'

The trial of real estate tycoon Sok Bun opened with a bombshell yesterday as it was revealed that former TV presenter Ek Socheata had dropped her complaint against the man who was seen viciously beating her on security camera footage that went viral in July.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Sor Lina read a previously undisclosed letter from Socheata, better known to her fans as Ms Sasa, to the courtroom yesterday expressing the plaintiff’s desire to withdraw her complaint, without explanation. When contacted by the Post yesterday, Socheata refused to comment.

The family of the former CTN host has previously stated that they would accept no financial deal to drop the charges, including a highly publicised offer of $100,000 early on from Bun’s camp.

Bun was arrested 16 days after the July 2 incident, in which he was seen repeatedly punching and kicking Socheata in the head, and has been held at Prey Sar prison since.

One of Socheata’s lawyers, Puth Theavy, said he wished for the decision to be left “to the judge’s discretion”, while prosecutor Hing Bunthan requested that the court continue with the case regardless of any deals struck between the parties.

“We have seen that in this case, the accused Sok Bun really committed the crime of intentional violence with aggravated assault . . . I, the prosecutor, would like to continue with the charge and would like the court to prosecute the accused according to law,” he said.

Theavy said that Socheata told him in December that she wanted to withdraw her complaint because she had come to “excuse” Bun’s assault out of a newfound sense of sympathy for her attacker.

Similarly, Seng Sovina, one of Bun’s lawyers, said that both Socheata and Bun wished to bring the trial to an end. Sovina speculated that there might have been an extrajudicial deal reached, but he could not confirm that.

“I think there is a deal outside, but they’ve kept it private,” he said.

Sok Sam Oeun, a legal expert, said that according to Cambodian law, the case must proceed regardless of Socheata’s request.

Oeun speculated that Socheata might have opted for an extrajudicial deal to acquire more compensation money from the defendant. According to Article 218, Bun’s charge, the compensation amount is capped at 10 million riel ($25,000), along with a possible jail sentence of 2-5 years.

An undated statement read in court yesterday from Socheatas father, Uth Thy, a tycoon in his own right who had taken a leading role in the case, indicated that he had asked for $2 million in compensation in his initial complaint.

“I would like the court to prosecute [Sok Bun] according to law. I demand $2 million compensation for the treatment of my daughter,” it read.

However when contacted yesterday evening, Thy denied making that statement, instead saying that he had turned the case over to Socheata and that she and her lawyers had made the demand in his name.

While Thy said in July that he would reject compensation if it meant the tycoon would escape sentencing, yesterday he inferred that he had lost faith that Bun would face justice in the courts.

“Before, I decided to do whatever it took to bring Mr Bun to face the law. But if he faces the law, even if we don’t withdraw [from the trial], he would be released. This is what I know,” he said.

Neither Bun, Socheata nor the prosecution’s two witnesses were in court yesterday.

Theavy said that he did not know where Socheata was yesterday, but added that she had a right to privacy.

Bun’s lawyer, Sovina, told the Post that his client “was sick today” and had provided a doctor’s note to the court, but added that he did not know where Bun was receiving treatment.

Judge Lina said that she would announce a verdict on February 15.

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