T HREE soldiers were sentenced to between 10 and 13 years imprisonment by the
Kratie provincial court on May 23 for killing three civilians, including a seven
year old child. The conviction is seen as a small victory by human rights
organizations who took it as a test case in making the military more
"The military usually act like they are above the law,
trying them for their misdeeds is very rare," says one foreign legal expert.
"The fact that they were tried is itself very encouraging."
soldiers and their superior officer from the 22nd battalion in Kratie went on
trial for intentional manslaughter for killing three civilians and wounding
three others in Ban Teay village after a personal squabble.
the human rights organization Vigilance, which investigated the case, four
soldiers Chan Reasmey, Mil Chan Vibol, Chan Thy and Ron were directly involved
in the killings. Ron escaped capture but Chan Reasmey and Chan Thy were given 13
years each, and Mil Chan Vibol 10.
Lieutenant Ear Kim Srin, their
commanding officer, who was held responsible for their behavior, will be tried
separately for violating army regulations by a military court.
incident occurred after a quarrel at about 4:30 pm on April 11, when a group of
eight soldiers from Battalion 22 came into the village and one of them,
reportedly Chan Reasmey, demanded a chicken from one of the villagers. The
villager apparently said his chicken had died.
The group left, but the
four soldiers returned at around 7:30 pm when a group of villagers were watching
a video outside. The soldiers were reportedly completely drunk and threatened to
kill a commune policeman on their way to the village.
One of the
soldiers then fired directly into the crowd of villagers watching video with his
AK 47. Another soldier reportedly used a B-40. They were arrested in mid- April
and turned over to the civilian court on April 21.
welcoming the prompt action and the military authorities' co-operation with the
civilian court, added in a statement, "It is hoped that this case will serve as
a lesson to the military not to abuse civilians."
Observers say the
arrest was made because wide publicity was given to the case in the media and
pressure was applied on the authorities by the villagers with the help of local
human rights organizations.
The villagers are reportedly afraid the
soldiers will escape from the Kratie prison, and the prosecutor's office has
asked that they be transferred to T3 prison in Phnom Penh. Vigilance has
requested security for the villagers.
While this trial is seen as an
exceptional case, two other killings have largely escaped public notice and the
accused have not been arrested.
A prisoner in Kratie provincial prison
was reportedly killed by a prison guard, who later said the prisoner was trying
to escape. Other prisoners present at the spot, however, refuted this claim.
The incident took place in late March in a field outside Kratie prison
where inmates grow crops. A local human rights organization said that despite
investigations by the Ministries of Justice and Interior, the guard Touch Darin
has not been arrested.
In fact the organizations say he has received a
One source who visited the area and spoke to the guard said he
was unrepentant. "It is unlikely that anything will be done without instructions
from the Ministries, the case will simply be buried," the source said.
third killing last month of a Funcinpec policeman has seen a similar fate.
The policeman was apparently murdered after a personal dispute with the
son-in-law of the deputy district chief in Kratie. The deputy chief belongs to
While no political motive has been established, the accused has
not be arrested even though police conducted an investigation the next
One source who visited Kratie says that there are people who wish to
prosecute both the accused, but are afraid of the consequences.
people have no support from the local police or authorities, and none from
Ministries in Phnom Penh. They are alone and are afraid to take risks or speak
out," the source says.