Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Freedom Park 'insurrection' trial concludes

Freedom Park 'insurrection' trial concludes

Roeun Chetra (centre) is escorted in to Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday morning after being detained on insurrection charges for his alleged involvement in a 2014 protest.
Roeun Chetra (centre) is escorted in to Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday morning after being detained on insurrection charges for his alleged involvement in a 2014 protest. Hong Menea

Freedom Park 'insurrection' trial concludes

The last of three men belatedly charged over a 2014 protest that descended into violence at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park stood trial yesterday, telling the court he merely stopped at the opposition-led demonstration to film it and had in fact helped a security guard injured during the melee.

Yea Thong, 44, was among three men seized by police in August of last year, just hours after the prime minister in a public speech demanded more arrests in the widely criticised case, which has already seen 11 people convicted on “insurrection” charges.

Thong’s two co-accused – Yon Kimhour and Roeun Chetra – testified on May 5. Yesterday, lawyers for Thong and Kimhour demanded the court drop the charges of participating in an insurrection.

Chetra asked for a lesser charge.

Prior to the requests, Thong gave his recollection of July 15, 2014 – the day of the incident – telling the court he stopped to video the protest, which he came across after dropping his wife at work.

“I saw security guards had blocked protesters, beat them and a brawl had started,” he recalled. “Then a smoke bomb was fired from the west, where police stood. I saw one guard was beaten, so I took him inside the Ministry of Public Affairs compound.”

Prosecutor Keo Socheat, however, argued that Thong’s presence at the rally, where about 40 security guards were injured, was enough to convict him.

“He went into the park to film. But why did he film? So, he took part in the insurrection,” said Socheat, whose argument was strongly criticised by the defence.

During his testimony, Thong, who described himself as a “normal CNRP supporter”, said he believed his arrest was a case of mistaken identity, recalling that police had arrived at his house looking for a man named “Sitha” but had then taken him instead, despite not having a warrant.

“They came to look for Sitha, but they arrested me. I don’t understand why and I think they were confused,” he said. Thong also said he knew security guards who had seen him come to the aid of their colleague but had not asked the court to allow them to testify.

Judge Heng Sokna maintained that the defence’s time to present additional evidence had expired, though Thong’s attorney, Meng Sopheary, debated this, demanding that more witnesses, including the guards and 11 activists already convicted, be allowed to testify.

“This trial does not proceed smoothly according to the law. It does not guarantee justice for my client,” Sopheary said. However, after deliberating for 15 minutes, Sokna denied the request.

A verdict is due on June 13.

MOST VIEWED

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Walmart plans to diversify stock of Cambodia goods

    Walmart Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, on June 22 reiterated recent plans to scale up and greatly diversify its purchases of Cambodian products, according to the labour ministry. This came during a virtual working meeting between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and

  • Cambodia detects new Covid cases after 52 days: PM

    After 52 days of zero new Covid-19 cases, Cambodia has now detected new infections, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. In his special audio address to the nation late on June 28, Hun Sen said the new cases were detected on people who had undergone PCR tests

  • Cotton club growing in Battambang

    The global market for “vegan leather” – materials that act as alternatives to traditional leather that can be synthesised from cork, apple peels, cactus, recycled plastic, grape pomace and pineapple leaves, among other things, and supposedly require no chemicals or water to produce – is expected to