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Pagoda killers sentenced to 10-year terms

Pagoda killers sentenced to 10-year terms

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court yesterday sentenced three people, including two monks, to 10 years each in prison for the murder of a 20-year-old student at a pagoda in Meanchey district in October.

Presiding Judge Suos Sam Ath also ordered the trio to pay a total of 30 million riels (US$7,109) in compensation to the victim’s father.

The two monks; Van Socheat, 19; and Njhem Vuthy, 20; and their accomplice, 24-year-old Chem Bros, were arrested October 24 after being accused of beating Vat Vireak to death at the pagoda in Stung Meanchey commune a day earlier.

The three men denied the allegations, instead saying that they heard and saw the victim being beaten with wooden sticks, stones and other hard tools following a palm wine drinking session with six other people, including three monks.

Van Socheat told the court that he had not been involved in the killing, and said a man he identified only as “Phat” had talked about the murder during the drinking session.

“I saw the monk, Phat, and several other people beating [the victim] with wooden sticks and stones, and he died after being sent to hospital,” he said.

“The monk, Phat, talked about killing the victim, because he said he was very angry with him for a long time for cursing at him and looking down on him and his mother.”

Nhjem Vuthy and Chem Bros also denied the allegations.

But Suos Sam Ath denied their testimony, and said the acts of the monks had hurt the Buddhist faith.

“It is ridiculous that monks would act in such a foolish way and impact the religion and morals of the pagoda,” he said. “You must receive a serious sentence.”

He said police were still hunting for three other suspects believed to have been involved in the murder, including the monk known as Phat.

Khieu Sophal, the lawyer representing the family of the victim, said the court’s decision was acceptable.

“The court had enough evidence to prove they were guilty of intentional murder,” he said.

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