Major-general Chan Sam Ath was found guilty of violating the Forestry Law by the Stung Treng Provincial Court on Wednesday, but he will not be imprisoned because of poor health due to abdominal surgery.
Sam Ath was first detained on April 23 for clearing 70ha of state forest in Anlong Chrey commune’s Sralao village in Thala Barivat district.
Stung Treng Provincial Court chief Yar Narin confirmed that Sam Ath had been found guilty by the court but won’t face jail time. Instead, he will be released under court supervision.
“The court has ruled him unfit for jail because of his health. We decided to release him on April 29. He was seriously sick because he had stomach surgery. So we cannot put him in jail, otherwise, he could die,” Narin said.
Narin didn’t mention the exact articles of the Forestry Law Sam Ath had violated.
Rights group Adhoc provincial coordinator Bey Vanny regretted the court’s decision to not imprison Sam Ath.
He said such practices show a difference between the legal procedure for officials and ordinary people. In the past, ordinary people committing wrongdoings were often detained without exception.
“This shows that the enforcement of the law is a relief for senior officials who are committing crimes. The court is not willing to enforce the law seriously.
“The public are subject to detention. The law has two standards – one for officials and another for ordinary people,” Vanny said.
He demanded that the court enforce the law equally to both officials and citizens and said the speech and policies of Prime Minister Hun Sen have always suggested that any civil servant found committing wrongdoings should be subject to legal procedures and possibly removed from his position.