Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - One life: four months jail

One life: four months jail

One life: four months jail

P rey Veng - A military police officer who kicked a cyclo-rider to death here in

February was this month set free by a provincial court, after the judge

convicted him but suspended 20 months of a two year sentence.

Human

Rights groups - initially happy that the officer was arrested, and even taken to

trial - are angry at the outcome.

"While the majority of reported

offenses attributed to police or soldiers do not even result in arrests, those

that do find their way to the courts almost never end in a guilty defendant

being adequately punished," said one worker.

On June 12, military police

Captain Sam Sin To was convicted by the Prey Veng court for causing bodily harm

that resulted in the death of Ri Sarith at Neak Leoung port.

A Human

Rights group quoted witnesses as saying that military police stopped Sarith,

accused him of stealing the bike, and handcuffed him.

According to the

witnesses, Sin To kicked Sarith six times in the chest with his military boots.

Sarith collapsed and was taken to the hospital where he died on arrival. Sin To

was arrested four days later.

The court said it was a case of

unintentional harm and ruled out voluntary manslaughter, instead charging him

with battery causing injury, which provides up to five years jail.

The

court found Sin To guilty and sentenced him to a two-year sentence, twenty

months of which were suspended. Sin To was sentenced to time already served -

four months - and released. Kim Eng, the investigating judge, said the victim

was a thief, and the court conducted the trial based on a report from the doctor

who had operated on Sarith's body who found that he had died from no clear

cause.

"He could have died from fainting spell," added Svay Sisarouth,

the deputy chief of the Prey Veng court.

Kim Eng said he was told that

Sin To had just raised Sarith up with his boot and found that his face became

pale and his mouth started frothing.

Sisarouth said "It was the success

of the Prey Veng court to bring a high ranking police officer for trial. If this

was under the previous regime, we couldn't do it."

However, Human Rights

workers tell a different story.

One worker said Sarith had bought a

bicycle on credit for 30,000 riels ($13) from one of his neighbors.

In a

period of one year, he managed to pay 20,000 riels to the owner, but when the

business became difficult he then moved to Phnom Penh.

On February 17,

while he was coming off a ferry at the eastern bank of Neak Loeung river, he was

seen by the bicycle owner who reported him to police for stealing his

bicycle.

The worker said Sin To kicked Sarith six times.

The

examining doctor sent two letters to the court, written in French, one about the

external examination to say that no cause was found for the death and the other

to say that neither was Sarith affected internally, according to the

autopsy.

The worker said Sin To had paid one million riels in

compensation to Sarith's father, who did not lay criminal charges.

"This

is very common in the provinces for poor Khmer farmers to accept the

compensations [and forget everything]," he said.

He said about 50 percent

of the people in remote areas would accept this situation for fear of revenge.

They needed money, believed in karma and that "an egg cannot clash with a

rock".

"We thank you for coming to help us, but when the boat goes the

port will be here alone," the rights worker said.

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