A member of the Royal Cambodian Navy accused of facilitating the theft of AK-47s that were eventually used in more than a dozen armed robberies in Kampot province stood trial yesterday at the military court in Phnom Penh.
Vaing Lay, 24, a sailor in unit 8 stationed in Preah Sihanouk province, is charged with aiding and abetting after he allegedly helped five of his friends steal three AK-47 weapons from a military warehouse last year.
The quintet used the stolen weapons in 15 armed robberies in Kampot province, which resulted in the deaths of several villagers, prosecutors said yesterday in court.
One of the suspects in the group, Dul Chhang, was captured by police last August and during questioning told authorities that Vaing Lay had helped the group procure the weapons.
Vaing Lay was subsequently arrested and confessed to the crime, prosecutors said.
However, the sailor, who joined the service in 2010, denied the allegations in court yesterday and said that his confession was coerced.
“The unit chief said that if I didn’t confess, he would kill me,” Vaing Lay said.
“The military police threatened me that … they would electrocute and harass me … they kicked me to bleed from my ears when I said that I didn’t know [who did it],” he added.
Prosecutor Sork Pharin countered Vaing Lay’s testimony by saying that the navy-man’s original confession was consistent with what Dul Chhang had told authorities.
Vaing Lay was just trying to avoid punishment, the prosecutor claimed.
Vaing Lay’s defence lawyer, Ke Chamroeun, urged the court to drop the charges against his client, saying that Vaing Lay was framed, “just as a monkey eats rice and applies it to a goat’s mouth, to make it seem as if the goat was the one who ate the rice”.
A verdict will be handed down next Thursday, presiding judge Nou Samidy said.