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Supreme Court rejects bail for former CNRP deputy commune chief

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Former Poipet Commune Chief Chao Veasna appears at the Supreme Court on 2017. Post staff

Supreme Court rejects bail for former CNRP deputy commune chief

The Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a bail request from a former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) deputy commune chief who was last year sentenced to five years in prison following a protest in front of the Poipet Customs Department building in Banteay Meanchey province in 2015.

Presiding Judge Soeng Panhavuth read the court’s verdict in front of the defendant, Chao Veasna, also known as Veng, at the close of the trial. He had earlier listened to submissions from Veasna and his defence lawyer Chuong Choungy.

Panhavuth denied 55-year-old Veasna’s request to be released on bail, upholding a previous verdict by the Appeal Court.

“The verdict of the Supreme Court was made because questions of law, in this case, are still under review by the Supreme Court, so the defendant is not allowed to be released on bail because he needs to be involved in further court proceedings,” Panhavuth said.

After the verdict had been delivered, defence lawyer Choungy told The Post on Wednesday that he was disappointed because Veasna’s request for bail was reasonable.

“In Chao Veasna’s case, the facts of the case are still being reviewed by the Supreme Court – the case is not concluded yet. Even if the Supreme Court finds my client guilty, it’s not too late,” he added.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Choungy told the court that his client needed to be released on bail because he was unwell. He said Veasna had blood poisoning and liver problems, and in the past, he had suffered from appendicitis.

“He has a permanent house and a job. He would not run away,” he continued.

A court report on May 25, 2015, said Veasna joined a group of porters who staged a protest in front of the Poipet Customs Department building.

The porters demanded that officers at the Poipet border checkpoint stop demanding 70 baht ($2.24) for each cart. They also called for a face-to-face meeting with the department’s officials.

At around 10am, some porters started overturning their carts, blocking the road and burning car tyres.

The protest continued until noon, when a group of porters stormed into the customs building, destroying public property and setting six vehicles belonging to customs officials on fire.

Veasna was not arrested until February 2017, more than a year and a half after the incident. He had said he was targeted for arrest as he was running in last year’s commune elections.

On June 7, 2018, Veasna and seven others were sentenced by Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court to five years in prison for incitement and collusion in damaging state property.

Veasna filed a complaint to the Appeal Court but on October 19, 2018, the court upheld the provincial court’s verdict. Veasna then filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.

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