Two former Khmer Rouge commanders received life sentences for the abduction and killing
of three backpackers in 1994.
Nuon Paet, sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the 1994 killing of three foreign backpackers by Khmer Rouge forces is mobbed by news media representatives, September 4.
Chhouk Rin was sentenced by the Appeal Court on September 6, while his former boss
Nuon Paet had his life sentence confirmed at the Supreme Court two days earlier.
However as the decision in Rin's case was delivered in absentia, his lawyer, Puth
Theavy, is entitled to again appeal the case to the Appeal Court. Theavy had earlier
decried the September 6 verdict, and protested the court's refusal to allow him to
summon any of 21 defense witnesses
"The verdict was an injustice for my client because the court rejected all the
important witnesses," Theavy said, adding that the court had buckled to political
pressure from the UK, France and Australia for a conviction.
Theavy told the Post September 12 that he would file the appeal with the Appeal Court
once he received official notification of the verdict. Theavy's interpretation of
the law was confirmed by Ea Sopheap, the Cambodian lawyer for the family of Briton
Theavy said it could be weeks or months until the case is re-heard at the Appeal
Court. Rin is entitled to his freedom until a final verdict is delivered by the Supreme
Court, to which Theavy will certainly appeal if his client loses the next Appeal
The Appeal Court had overturned Rin's acquittal at Phnom Penh's Municipal Court two
years ago for the train ambush in which 13 Cambodians died, and the three foreigners
- Australian David Wilson 29, Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet, 27, and Slater, 28 -
The three were executed around two months later as Cambodian army units moved into
the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Phnom Voar where they were being held.
The appeal was brought by the family of Braquet who were outraged that the lower
court had ruled that a 1994 amnesty law, designed to encourage KR defections, applied
The Appeal Court's presiding judge Samrith Sophal agreed with the families, saying
Rin was guilty of terrorism and could not escape responsibility for what happened
as the train raid was undertaken by soldiers under his command.
After the verdict was read out, one of Theavy's rebuffed witnesses, Ouch Nuon, said
Rin's conviction would cause outrage in Phnom Voar.
"I am one of the witnesses for Chhouk Rin, and along with hundreds of villagers
and soldiers in Phnom Voar I am not happy [at the verdict]," said Nuon. "The
decision by the Appeal Court is wrong and is an injustice."
Jean-Claude Braquet, the father of the murdered French hostage, said he was satisfied
with the court's decision but expressed regret that the courts had made him wait
eight years for justice.
He applauded the judge's ruling that Chhouk Rin was not covered by the 1994 amnesty,
saying that it only applied to political not criminal offenses.
"I was happy with the result and I can say that the Cambodian judicial system
is capable of trying criminals," Braquet said. He also called for further prosecutions
in the case, stating that Rin was not the only person responsible.
On September 4 the Supreme Court ended the hopes of Rin's former boss Nuon Paet that
he would be acquitted of the killings. It upheld the Appeal Court's sentence of life
in jail which was handed down two years ago.
Paet told reporters the verdict was unjust, and said he would appeal to Prime Minister
Hun Sen. During a break in proceedings before the sentence was read out, Paet told
reporters he had tried to negotiate a ceasefire and the release of the three backpackers.
"I regret their deaths," he said. "I only arrived after they were
Paet said that rebel commander Vith Vorn, who died in unclear circumstances around
a year after the attack, and KR regional commander Sam Bith, who is currently awaiting
trial, were responsible. Bith is likely to be the last suspect to face charges for
his alleged role.
A French Foreign Ministry spokesman welcomed the court's decisions.
"These positive developments testify to the progress achieved in the consolidation
of the state of law in Cambodia, and allow hope that justice for all will finally
be provided in this sad affair,"a press statement issued September 11 said.