Two of three members of Prime Minister’s Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit on trial for viciously beating two opposition lawmakers outside parliament last year took the stand yesterday, with more evidence suggesting the attack was coordinated emerging during the second and final day of sitting.
Soldiers Sot Vanny, 45, and Mao Hoeung, 34, yesterday echoed previous testimony by their co-accused, 33-year-old Chhay Sarith, claiming their attack on opposition CNRP parliamentarians Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sophea was in response to “insults” levelled by the lawmakers.
The parliamentarians – ripped from their cars and assaulted by at least 16 men soon after a mass pro-government rally against opposition leader Kem Sokha – have repeatedly rejected this assertion.
Yesterday, evidence from tuk-tuk driver Ek Sophearak, a witness to the beating, also suggested the suspects’ actions on October 26 were not spontaneous.
Sophearak said he was driving past at about 12pm when he saw about 10 people with red kramas tied around their waists, jump over a fence from inside the National Assembly to chase down and stop the lawmakers’ cars as they reached the south exit.
After the beating, the assailants escaped the scene in coordinated fashion, he said.
“They got on two trucks that were waiting; one of the trucks is white and its number plate was 1939. The trucks were Korean-made, like those that factory workers take,” Sophearak said.
During his testimony, Hoeung described repeatedly kicking and hitting both victims, and confirmed he belonged to the bodyguard’s 2B unit based in Kandal province’s Takhmao town for three years and was trained in Vietnam.
He said his job was to gather intelligence for his superiors, whom he refused to discuss. He confirmed both Vanny and Sarith were also members of the unit, which is under the premier’s command.
Sot Vanny – a 20-year veteran of the premier’s bodyguards – was even cagier when probed about his superiors, becoming visibly irritated on questions of training and discipline. On the morning of the attack, he recalled drinking coffee with 10 friends – some police officers – before hearing about the protests on the group’s walkie talkies.
“Then, we dispersed to our targets and I had to pick up Mao Hoeung at a cafe near the Independence Monument so that he could go and get the information about the demonstration,” said Vanny, who confessed to beating the lawmakers but denied damaging their cars.
The Post last month revealed evidence showing soldiers were ferried from a Bodyguard Unit base in Takhmao run by deputy Bodyguard Unit commander Deang Sarun to the anti-Sokha protest.
During the hearing, lawyer for the victims Sam Sokong argued the attack was “clearly planned and managed”.
“The accused Sot Vanny said he drank coffee with 10 people in the morning, and one of the witnesses said he saw 10 people jump out of the parliament building. So, it is consistent,” he said.
The lawyers for the suspects, who are charged with intentional violence with aggravating circumstances and property damage, yesterday requested a reduced sentence and for the latter charge to be dropped.
Choung Choungy, also representing the victims, demanded the suspects each pay both victims $25,000 in damages.
A verdict is due on May 27.