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Stiff sentences for Western murders

Stiff sentences for Western murders

T WO Khmer Rouge guerrillas have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms for the

Siem Reap murder of American tourist Susan Hadden after their pleas of innocence

were rejected.

Kong Chhoeun, 36, was sentenced to 18 years prison, while

Sok Klouk, 28, received a 15-year sentence.

Both were charged with the

murder of Hadden, 50, from Texas, who was killed last January when her tour

convoy was ambushed on the way to the Banteay Srey temple. Hadden's husband,

William, 54, was seriously wounded and later evacuated to

Singapore.

Before their convictions in the Siem Reap court on August 8,

both Chhoeun and Klouk denied taking part in the shooting in the

ambush.

"I came with a unit of 15 [KR] fighters but I didn't open fire,"

said Klouk, accused of committing a "premeditated crime".

He admitted

being present at the ambush, which he said was ordered by his commander because

of a food shortage. "We didn't have rice to eat."

Klouk said he recalled

seeing three rebel comrades rifling through the Haddens' vehicle. He said his

commander later gave him a camera, binoculars and film to barter for rice for

the group. He said he was arrested while trying to defect to the government,

using the opportunity to go to Siem Reap to barter the goods.

Chhoeun,

meanwhile, also proclaimed his innocence of murder.

He said he had

traveled with the ambush group but "I didn't go to the road because my rifle had

only three rounds - I heard gunfire and I saw the smoke later."

The

prosecution tendered evidence including four AK47 rifles, one M16 and a B40

grenade launcher allegedly used in the ambush.

Three other rebels faced

charges of being members of the outlawed Khmer Rouge. Two of them - still at

large after escaping from Siem Reap prison during a mass break-out last May -

were sentenced in absentia to 20 years jail. The trial of the remaining man was

continuing at press time.

The Siem Reap trial followed the sentencing of

a former KR guerrilla to 15 years jail for the murder of three Westerners near

Sihanoukville last year. Chuon Mean, 30, had confessed to killing Australian

Kellie Wilkinson, 24, her British boyfriend Dominic Chappell, 25, and friend

Tina Dominy, 24, from Britain.

At Mean's trial at Sihanoukville Court on

July 26, his defender argued the rebel had just been following orders. Defender

Heng Pung said KR commander Sam Bo had ordered the killings, and threatened his

fighters with death if they did not commit them. Three other KR, including Sam

Bo, were sentenced in absentia to terms ranging from 16 to 20

years.

Wilkinson, Chappell and Dominy were taken hostage on April 11,

1994 when their taxi was stopped at a KR checkpoint as it headed toward

Sihanoukville. They were killed the next day.

Relatives and foreign

diplomats were satisfied with the sentence.

"I think it's a very fair

result, justice has been seen to be done," said David Chappell, father of

Dominic.

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