Days after investigating judge Hing Thirith decided to drop the charges against two
suspects in the assassination of union leader Chea Vichea, press reports have emerged
saying he will be dismissed from duty at next month's meeting of the Supreme Council
of Magistracy (SCM).
On March 24, the Cambodia Daily quoted Ly Vouch Leng, director of the Appeals Court
and a member of the SCM, confirming plans to dismiss Thirith and fellow-judge Oun
Bunna at an April 19 meeting of the SCM.
But when contacted by the Post on March 25, Leng said, "Don't ask me I don't
know," before hanging up.
Thirith dropped the charges against Bourn Samnang and Sok Samoeun on Friday March
19 citing inconsistent evidence, but the men remain in custody pending an appeal
lodged by prosecutor Khut Sopheang the following Monday.
Thirith also admitted he had faced pressure from a senior government official to
"push the case to trial" but said he would not identify the person without
evidence to back up the accusation.
He said he will accept his removal if sufficient evidence is provided of mistakes
he is alleged to have made, but backed away from previous assertions the he is a
victim of politics, saying, "I don't want the situation to be more tense."
Hing Thirith is no stranger to controversy over his role investigating some of the
most politically charged cases before the Phnom Penh municipal court. He was investigating
judge in the case that saw Hun Sen's nephew Nhim Sophea recently sentenced to 18
months prison for his involvement in a shooting spree last October.
The decision to drop the charges against Samnang and Samoeun was hailed as "a
step towards the independence of the judiciary" by the Cambodian Human Rights
Action Committee on March 25.
The Cambodian Watchdog Council (CWC) said in a press release on March 25 that they
had great concerns for Hing Thirith's safety and urged foreign embassies, the UNHCR
and human rights groups to monitor his security.
They also appealed to King Norodom Sihanouk, who is the Constitutionally-appointed
president of the SCM, to intervene in Thirith's alleged dismissal.