Official remained tight-lipped on Thursday about the sudden arrest and snap trial of three-star General Hun Chea – nephew to the prime minister – who was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Wednesday over a shooting incident.
Numerous officials from the Interior Ministry and Phnom Penh Municipal Court either claimed no knowledge of, or redirected questions about, the incident on Thursday. Chea’s conviction came just hours after his arrest the day following the shooting.
Multiple local news outlets – including pro-government mouthpiece Fresh News and English-language daily Khmer Times – made no mention of Chea’s relation to Prime Minister Hun Sen in their coverage.
When asked about reports that the incident was a domestic argument with his wife, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak directed questions to the court and hung up.
Ministry of Interior Penal Crime Chief Sok Khemarin, meanwhile, said he was in the UK and could not talk. Suy Kunthea, the head of administration at the ministry’s Penal Crime Department, said he did not have information about the case and directed questions to another ministry official who did not pick up his phone.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana said he was “out of office” and deferred questions to another spokesman, Y Rin, who asked reporters to call a third court spokesman. That spokesman also did not pick up the phone.
When reached on Thursday, Judge Ros Piseth, who gave the verdict on Wednesday, said only the court “had enough to charge and sentence” Chea for making a death threat and damaging property. Asked who Chea’s lawyer was, Piseth hung up.
Chea – the son of the prime minister’s older brother Hun San – has had trouble with the law before. In 2002, Chea and his cousin, Hun To, were charged in a shootout that injured two people. Six years later, police refused to name Chea as the driver of an SUV that hit and killed a motorbike driver on Sothearos.
A man who identified himself as Chea’s younger brother eventually admitted Chea had been the driver. In 2010, the premier appealed to Chea to return to his family after he was publicly accused of cheating on his wife and using drugs.
A resident on the same street as Chea’s building in Psar Thmey I commune who declined to give his name said he had heard shots on Tuesday but did not dare to name the person involved.
“It’s not only me,” he said. “All the people on this corner know, but they do not say.”