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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Two freed in civilians' deaths

Two freed in civilians' deaths

R OBAS MONGKAL - Relatives of two men executed in this Battambang village are

dismayed at the release of a policeman and a soldier accused of the

murders.

Battambang Court Chief Judge Nil Non has ruled the accused are

innocent - largely based on his assertion that the victims' relatives agree with

his decision.

But the family of one of the dead men hotly disputes

that.

"I am very sad. They killed my brother and then they are released,"

Neth Tou said last week.

"I have no trust in anybody any more, I don't

know who I can depend on."

Tou is the brother of Neth Thong, who along

with Mov Ving was shot to death by a group of district, military and police

officials on Feb 5.

Thong, a farmer, and Ving, a Funcinpec militiaman,

were apparently alleged to be Khmer Rouge members, though their families

strongly deny that.

The men were playing volleyball in Robas Mongkal, in

Mong Russey district, when they were arrested and led away in front of many

witnesses. They were later shot.

After considerable urging by human

rights groups, arrest warrants were issued for seven men suspected of the

killings.

Two of them, militiaman Kuon Vy and policeman Mam Rin, were

caught on March 30 - by a police general who said he arrested them "with tears"

because they had done much for Cambodia - and imprisoned.

On May 17,

judge Nil Non granted bail to Vy. The judge said last week that he had also

freed Rin and dropped the charges against both men.

The judge said his

investigation found that the men were present at the arrest of Thong and Ving

but not their murders.

He said the soldier and policeman had been walking

by and went to watch the arrests, but did not take part.

The judge

acknowledged that Rin was seen to point his gun - but at another man he knew,

not Thong or Ving.

The two arrested men were led away by a group of

soldiers down a dirt track. Both Vy and Rin followed, at a distance, but

returned to their bases before the arrested men were shot.

Non said he

had gathered his information from a variety of sources in the area who agreed

that Rin and Vy were not involved in the killings.

The "main evidence"

was a statement from Thong's brother-in-law, Sey Sainh, who acknowledged that

both Rin and Vy left the dirt track before the murders happened.

The

judge said the dead men's families had been told of his decision to release Vy

and Rin, and "we have not had any complaint from them".

At Robas Mongkal,

Thong's brother Neth Tou said he only knew that Vy and Rin were free when they

turned up at the commune again.

"I feel scared because I don't know why

they were released - to take revenge on my family? They kill one of my brothers

and still they go past my house nearly every day."

Tou strenuously denied

that Sey Sainh had told the judge that Vy and Rin were not among the

murderers.

"I was there when Sey Sainh answered the [judge's] questions.

He did not say that.

"This is slander. If the court says that, then who

pointed their gun at my brother and arrested him?...it was Rin."

Sey

Sainh himself was away farming 10km away and could not be interviewed by the

Post.

Judge Non - who spoke of being the subject of military

intimidation in other cases - denied that he was pressured to release Rin or

Vy.

He acknowledged that some soldiers had visited his office several

times to "request" the pair's release, but there was no real intimidation or

threats.

"They just expressed their unhappiness, but did not put any

pressure on me. They said they wanted the two men freed, to send them back to

the battlefield."

He said he was still taking action to see that five

other soldiers - who he had concluded were responsible for the killings - would

be caught and tried.

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