The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday sentenced Sam Serey, the Denmark-based leader of the anti-government Khmer National Liberation Front, and 10 other accused members of his group to between five and nine years in jail for “plotting” to commit an attack.
The 10 besides Serey were arrested in October 2014 over a protest they planned in front of the Vietnamese Embassy to demand respect for the 1991 Paris Peace Accords. All have denied “plotting” anything.
“The court decides to sentence Sam Serey to nine years in prison for initiating plotting,” judge San Sophat said, adding that the self-exiled Serey would be jailed if ever apprehended. “The court orders the arrest and jailing of Sam Serey.”
Seven of the co-defendants – Chhun Chat, Lat Lyheng, Chay Veth, An Chann, Chan Sna, Pen Chanra and Chhim Smak – were also sentenced to six years in prison, while three – Liv Yi, Chranh Monh and Khun Nakong – were sentenced to five years each.
Judge Sophat provided no explanation for the different levels of severity in punishment.
Leaving court, some of the newly convicted – most of whom were arrested in possession of banners and caps on their way to the protest – insisted they never planned an attack.
“My name is Chhay Veth, and I am not a member of the front,” said one, adding he only wanted to protest. “I just took part in the [planned] protest on October 23 and they sentenced me to six years.”
Serey, who has described as politically motivated the arrest of both his members and those who deny membership, could not be reached yesterday.