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Convicted militants appeal

Chea Sarann (left), leader of the Sovannaphumi Army Movement, and a member of the movement, Chum Vichey, exit Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court.
Chea Sarann (left), leader of the Sovannaphumi Army Movement, and a member of the movement, Chum Vichey, exit Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court. HENG CHIVOAN

Convicted militants appeal

Six men who were convicted for attempting to launch a paramilitary force aimed at overthrowing the government yesterday appealed their 15- to 17-year sentences.

The group, former members of the defunct opposition Sam Rainsy Party, claimed to have been offered $20 million from the Taiwanese government to fund the coup.

But though some of them confessed during the October 2011 trial, all appeared at the Appeal Court yesterday to call for acquittals.

One, Liv Sok Sovann, 51, claimed in court yesterday that he had been a secret government agent employed in 2010 to spy on the group and was swept up in the arrests a year later.

Chea Sarann, 51, leader of the so-called Sovannaphumi Army, told the court yesterday that he had no intention to overthrow the government and had joined strictly for the money.

“They said do it, and they will pay. I just wanted the money and did not aim to topple the government with four or five friends. The appeal was made because I am not satisfied with the decision of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which charged me too harshly,” he said.

Sarann has maintained that a man named Thab The had masterminded the movement and promised him the Taiwanese government would give them the money if they formed the army. But the “army” was always limited to the six, Sarann, who helped establish it in 2006, said.

Phlot Vy, 61; Chum Vichey, 44; Poth Phorn, 48; and Yorm Hev, 43, were also each sentenced to between 15 and 17 years in October 2011 for forming an illegal armed forces movement. They have denied all involvement.

Prosecutor Im Sophan advised the judge to drop the charges against Phorn and Hev and review the rest of the convicted.

A verdict is scheduled for October 16.

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