Opposition lawmakers Kong Saphea and Nhay Chamroeun have opted to boycott this morning’s opening of the trial of three men – Chay Sarith, 33, Mao Hoeun, 34, and Suth Vanny, 45 – accused of beating them outside of the National Assembly in October.
Saphea said yesterday that he and Chamroeun, MPs for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), will not be present at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court because they believe Cambodian justice is a rigged game.
“We lack confidence in our court system. It looks like there is one standard for powerful men and another for their opponents,” he said, going on to cite the recent controversial pursuit through the courts and law enforcement bodies of fellow CNRP lawmakers Um Sam An and Kem Sokha – both cases have drawn criticism from civil society groups.
It was following a protest calling for Sokha’s resignation as first vice president of the National Assembly that Saphea and Chamroeun were dragged from their cars, kicked, hit with metal bars and stomped. Both required medical attention following the attacks.
The attackers were not arrested by police, but came forward following an appeal by the prime minister and were identified as members of the military.
Saphea said yesterday that state prosecutors should have brought prosecutions while he was still in hospital receiving treatment, but as they did not, he has filed his own lawsuit.
However, after witnessing the treatment of Sokha and Sam An, he said he chose not to “fulfill the procedures of a court working to the orders of the powerful”.
Asked to comment on Saphea’s criticisms of the judiciary, Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophanna simply said, “It is his right to express what he wants to say; it is his right,” adding that the trial would continue in the plaintiffs’ absence, but that it is impossible to foresee how that might affect their case.
Saphea’s co-plaintiff Chamroeun said he was disappointed by how few suspects had been brought to court, suggesting there were more powerful individuals behind the attacks that had not been summonsed.
“I believe that the [attackers] did not do this of their own accord, because there is no rancour between us,” said Chamroeun. “I believe that there are individuals standing behind them.”