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Answers sought from Banh on promotion of MPs' attackers

Defence Minister Tea Banh speaks at an event in Chroy Changvar district last year.
Defence Minister Tea Banh speaks at an event in Chroy Changvar district last year. Hong Menea

Answers sought from Banh on promotion of MPs' attackers

A senior opposition lawmaker says he will request Minister of Defence Tea Banh explain at parliament why three members of the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit were promoted after serving prison time for seriously assaulting two opposition lawmakers.

Head of the National Assembly’s commission on investigations and anti-corruption Ho Vann said he would propose summoning the minister to appear before the parliament during the weekly internal meeting of Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers scheduled today at 2:30pm.

“The public has seen that those people were culprits, so why and how were they promoted in rank?” Vann said yesterday by telephone.

“They were sentenced for beating lawmakers … yet they get promotions – the public has its doubts about it.”

Sot Vanny, Mao Hoeun and Chay Sarith, all members of the premier’s elite guard, were among 16 men who viciously beat CNRP lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea outside the assembly on October 26, 2015, and, despite video evidence showing at least 16 men involved, the only attackers arrested.

During their trial, they denied they were acting under orders and claimed they were provoked by the victims. Far from supporting this, footage of the attack showed the suspects, who emerged from a pro-government rally, were well-coordinated.

The men had all but 12 months of a four-year sentence suspended, and were promoted weeks after their release in November, with Vanny and Hoeun becoming full colonels and Sarith awarded a general’s star.

Representatives of the Defence Ministry and military could not be reached yesterday for comment.

They have previously said that the trio had served their time and had been assessed as deserving advancement by an internal committee for their performance.

CNRP lawmaker Cheam Channy, who handles defence issues for the party, said the decision to promote the men was unacceptable and backed the call to summon Tea Banh.

“They beat them almost to death, were promoted and had their jail term suspended,” Channy said.

“[Banh] needs to clarify about this.”

Saphea, whose nose was broken and eardrum ruptured in the attack, yesterday backed Vann’s proposal, saying he wanted to hear answers.

“I believe that all CNRP lawmakers will support this move to summon the minister of defence to clarify at the National Assembly,” he said.

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