The Appeal Court yesterday upheld a five-year conviction for former Khmer Power Party President Sourn Serey Ratha for allegedly “inciting military personnel to disobedience” by criticising the August deployment of troops to the Laos border during a period of heightened tensions with the Kingdom’s northern neighbour.
The former political party leader was also convicted in late August of incitement to commit a felony and demoralising the army after he posted on Facebook that a conflict between the two countries would only harm soldiers on the front lines, while generals would safely enjoy their “money” and “girls”.
Unusually, the appeal hearing was off limits to journalists, despite such hearings being open to the public. Presiding Judge Pol Samoeun only told reporters that he had “upheld the conviction” as he left the courtroom.
Court spokesman Touch Tharith justified the decision, saying that Serey Ratha did not deny his crime, but “only took time to defend why [he posted] it”, without elaborating on the defence, or why it was rejected.
Asked why journalists were prevented from entering the courtroom, Tharith would only say that the Appeal and Supreme courts had the authority to do so, adding that court officials in the past had issues with journalists causing “anarchy”.
Serey Ratha’s wife, Nay Chakrya, attended the hearing and said the charges against her husband should be dropped.
“The sentence is unjust. I will appeal to the Supreme Court against this case,” she said.
His lawyer, Ra Chanpiseth could not be reached.