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Soldiers terrorize court staff

Soldiers terrorize court staff

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

independence.

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