A group of 21 families, whose children were affected by the false claims of the distributors of baby formula Nutrilatt, have asked Minister of Justice Koeut Rith to encourage the Court of Appeal to expedite the proceeding of their case.
Their March 13 letter to Koeut Rith detailed the October 4, 2022 verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court that followed their complaints of false advertising, filed against S&TK Trading Co Ltd. The use of the formula allegedly led to their children suffering from severe anemia, due to iron and zinc deficiency.
The initial complaints were filed in 2020. In an October verdict, the court sentenced company director Khon Keokesey to 10 months imprisonment and a fine of 8 million riel ($2,000), to be paid into the state coffers. She was also ordered to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 in compensation to each of the 21 complainants. She remains on bail while the appeal process is completed.
Chan Sophany, whose child was fed using Nutrilatt, said her daughter – who is now 3 years and 5 months old – was rushed to hospital after being diagnosed with anemia. The child needed blood transfusions and had only recently recovered her health.
She added that she has requested the intervention of the minister so she can put the case behind her and focus on raising her daughter.
“What we want is justice. It has been three years, and I no longer wish to spend all of my time on this court case and appeal,” she continued.
The mother of another victim, Chan Phalkun, said her son has recovered from his ordeal, and is now almost 4 years old.
“It is only thanks to excellent work by medical experts that my son is now a perfectly healthy little boy,” she said.
“I understand that the judiciary is trying its best to resolve the case according to legal procedures, but the issue is that the defendants appear to have little respect for the courts.
“They are often absent from hearings, and when they are present, they try to shift the blame on the factory that made the products. The emotional toll of such a drawn-out case is what made us write to His Excellency the minister,” she added.
Phalkun believed that the defendant had changed lawyers part way through her appeal to delay the process even further.
Justice ministry spokesman Chin Malin responded to the families’ appeal on March 14, saying the court is currently reviewing the case.
“As maintaining an independent judiciary is of the utmost importance, the minister cannot interfere or issue orders to the court. The only exception would be if the court had committed a procedural error, or if there was some other irregularity that required correcting,” he said.
Malin noted however that if the complainants are dissatisfied with court proceedings, they have the right to ask the ministry to examine the case.
“If they complain to the ministry, it will check for any irregularities. If any are found, action will be taken,” he said.