The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court’s five-year sentence of former Poipet commune second deputy chief Chao Veasna, 55, for damaging a Banteay Meanchey Department of Customs and Excise office during protests.
He was absent from court as Presiding Judge Soeng Panhavuth read his verdict to the Trial Chamber.
“Having listened to the concluding arguments from the defence lawyer for the accused as well as the prosecutor, and having deliberated, the Court finds the decision of the Appeal Court as acceptable.
“The Supreme Court rules to uphold the Appeal Court’s verdict and the detention of the accused,” Panhavuth said.
Veasna, a former Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party member, was ordered by the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court in 2018 to pay $10,000 for damaging the office, $5,000 in restitution to a customs official and about $1,000 to eight car owners.
Veasna’s defence lawyer Chuong Chou Ngy said told The Post that his client had intended to mediate a protest between the Customs and Excise office and protesters.
Supreme Court records state that a throng of porters gathered in front of the Customs and Excise office on May 25, 2015 with their carts to protest against “exorbitant” fees charged by its officials.
Veasna heard a scream after Mao Srun, a porter, had been beaten unconscious by the police. Srun’s colleagues rushed him to a nearby hospital. Later, Veasna shouted that Mao Srun had died due to injuries, court records said.
The records concluded that the other porters became enraged when they heard Veasna yell that Srun had died. This prompted them to rush to the Customs and Excise office and tear it apart.
Veasna’s defence lawyer Chuong Chou Ngy told The Post on Wednesday that Veasna had successfully diffused similar situations in the past and he had intended to mediate the protests.
Ngy alleged that Poipet’s commune chief would “always file a complaint to the Provincial Hall” that Veasna had acted outside his official capacity when he would successfully mediate with protesters.
“On that day he was unsuccessful in mediating the incident. The police and the Provincial Court framed and accused him of instigating the protest.
“I was full of remorse when the Supreme Court ruled to uphold my client’s sentence. Investigations into the case show that Chao Veasna had no intention to lead people to commit acts of violence and destroy the office,” Ngy said.