Four men, one an assistant to the prime minister, are facing jail terms of three to five years after being charged with “intentional violence” yesterday in the wake of an alleged violent beating in Koh Kong over the weekend.
Lay Menglaing, chief of the province’s minor crimes police office, told the Post that Bun Sokha, deputy chief of staff of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit and a personal assistant to the premier, along with his bodyguards Sum Veasna and Meang Chheangly and driver Sum Chhaiya, were sent to Koh Kong provincial prison at about 4pm yesterday following two days of questioning.
“The court charged them with intentional violence like what I accused them of. We are sending them to prison,” he said.
Rights groups said that the charge came despite an offer of US$15,000 in compensation, which they claim was rejected by two of the victims yesterday.
Investigating judge Kham Sophary, the man who issued the warrant for the quartet’s detention, declined to comment yesterday, saying his deliberations were “secret”.
The four suspects were arrested on Monday after allegedly beating four people at the Koh Kong City hotel in a dispute that originated over a missing necklace.
The victims accused them of beating, kicking and handcuffing them as well as using an electric baton and threatening them with a gun, actions police previously told the Post had been captured by hotel security cameras.
Human rights groups monitoring the case welcomed the court’s actions in dealing with a senior official, comparing it favourably to the case of former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith, who remains free more than two months after allegedly shooting into a crowd of strikers outside a factory in Svay Rieng province, hitting three young women.
Chhouk Bandith has been charged with causing “unintentional injury”, a decision that has been pilloried by rights groups and victims alike.
“The Koh Kong court’s work is based on the law and can avoid impunity. The court in Svay Rieng province should follow [their example],” said In Kong Chet, provincial coordinator for human rights group Licadho.
He added that he had been worried the men would be freed on bail and might threaten the victims.
Neang Boratino, provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, praised the court’s decision as “a model for other courts”, adding that his organisation had also received complaints from victims Sang Thairath and Norng Suden.
“We provided a lawyer for them. Before [the court’s decision], the suspects offered them $15,000 each to settle the case out of court, but they disagreed and let it go through the court system,” he said.
None of the four victims could be reached for comment yesterday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]