Two men who were sentenced to extended jail terms for their role in the anti-Thai
riots remained in Prey Sar prison on September 23, five days after they were pardoned
by King Norodom Sihanouk. The King ordered them freed on September 18.
The two remaining prisoners, Ken Sara, 24, a Faculty of Law student, and Thorn Veasna,
19, are now awaiting clearance from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to be freed.
Kim Sarin, director of Prey Sar prison, said on September 23 that he had not yet
received documents ordering their release. Student groups said the pair were being
Um Sam An, former president of the Students' Movement for Democracy, said on September
20 that the MoJ had intentionally delayed preparing the documents for their release.
"We have to deal with the officers at the [MoJ] and the Ministry of Interior
to free Sara and Veasna," said Sam An. "We spent about $100 on 'under-the-table'
fees to officers."
He expects that the pair to be freed by the end of September, but Sam An planned
to file a complaint with the court over their unlawful pre-trial detention period,
which had exceeded the permitted six months.
The judge in the case, Tan Senarong, announced the verdicts on September 15. He indicated
at the sentencing hearing that Sara and Veasna had received longer prison terms because
he found convincing evidence of their guilt in the riots.
Sara, who was convicted of inciting violence, racism and participating in an illegal
demonstration, was sentenced to nine months with seven months of his term already
served. Veasna, convicted of inciting racism, received an additional 20 days on his
seven-month pre-trial detention period.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court also convicted 54 others arrested after the riots
on reduced charges of theft. The court sentenced them to time already served and
ordered them released on September 15. Two others were freed because charges against
them were dropped.
All of the 21 who appeared in court during the trial had spent at least seven months
in Prey Sar jail. Another 37 were tried in absentia. Sarin said that all of the detainees
in the riot case besides Sara and Veasna had been freed on September 16.
A local human rights monitor, on condition of anonymity, criticized the trial process
as "political". He said it failed to fairly prosecute those responsible
for the destruction during the January 29 riots in the capital that left the Thai
embassy and many Thai businesses in ruins. He said the investigating judge never
attempted to identify the true leaders behind the riots.
"The situation was tense before the riots, but the authorities took no measures
to protect the Thai Embassy or other Thai assets," he said. "I think that
the trial was a show to hide what was behind the scenes."
He also faulted the court for not exonerating suspects accused of theft-a charge
he said did not apply to those scavenging items once the riot subsided.