A ROVING gang of soldiers armed with machine guns and rocket launchers chased and
threatened Kompong Som court staff for an entire day for finding an army commander's
mother guilty of using a fake business license.
According to a complaint made to the Ministry of Justice by Huon Many, the Chief
Judge of the court, Lieutenant Colonel Sok Tha of the Sihanoukville military and
three other men armed with pistols went to court demanding to see him and the Prosecutor
on the morning of May 13.
The court was in session so the men were asked to wait for the proceedings to end.
As they waited, they complained loudly to the court staff about an order to arrest
Sok Tha's mother.
The order was issued by the court who found her guilty in January of using a fake
business permit to manufacture wine.
Houn Many said he agreed to meet the four men but only after they disarmed. Sok Tha
refused to disarm, and as the situation got more tense Huon Many said he had to escape.
According to a report by the Prosecutor to the Governor of Sihanoukville the gang
then went to the Prosecutor's house that afternoon and threatened to kill him.
Noticing that some of the Prosecutor's relatives also had weapons, Sok Tha radioed
for 'reinforcements' and a truckload of soldiers armed with AK 47s and B 40 rocket
launchers arrived on the scene the report said.
The soldiers surrounded the Prosecutor's house, pointing their weapons at him. The
siege ended after two hours upon the intervention of police from the province's Mittapheap
district the report said.
Huon Many said the soldiers then drove back to the court. Huon Many said he and the
court staff escaped in time, but the gang stayed in place until the evening following
Sok Tha's orders.
The Prosecutor's report said the same truckload of soldiers returned to his house
at about 7 pm repeating their threats. After an hour they left under the orders of
Sok Tha and reportedly drove drunkenly around the town. They then went to the court
again threatening the guards outside who promptly fled.
The issue drew government attention when Huon Many wrote to the Minister of Justice
on May 16, and also to the Prime Ministers and Ministers of Defense and Interior.
Huon Many said he also asked the Minister of Justice, Chem Sngoun, to protect the
lives of court workers and their families which were under threat.
In a letter to the Ministers of Defense and Interior on April 18, the Minister of
Justice said Sok Tha should be "arrested, demoted and sent to the military court
for trial. If the anarchy caused by the military continues the country would become
one that cannot be ruled by law anymore."
The incident has also drawn the attention of UN Special Representative for Human
Rights in Cambodia, Justice Michael Kirby. In a letter to the Minister of Justice,
he urged the accused be brought to trial as soon as possible in order to uphold judicial