The Supreme Court on January 17 heard the case of two former two-star generals and one of their accomplices on charges of violating the government’s Covid-19 lockdown orders in April 2021 in Stung Meanchey III commune’s Damnak Thom village of the capital’s Meanchey district.

The defendants – Ung Chanthouk, 46, Lay Phearun, 29 and Kok Khy, 35 – were all present for the hearing. They were charged by a lower court with obstructing the implementation of health and administrative measures.

Chhun Vinita, a lawyer representing all three defendants, stated to the court that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of Appeal’s decisions to convict and uphold the lower court’s conviction of his clients were not in accordance with the law.

He said the case was improperly charged because it should have been a misdemeanour. He admitted that his clients violated the health measures and the government’s lockdown measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“But my clients were detained by the authorities after they had gathered in one place without causing transmission of Covid-19 to others. I would beg the court to release all three of my clients,” he said.

Deputy prosecutor Chan Darasmey disagreed with the assertions that the lower court had only convicted the trio of misdemeanour charges but agreed that they had cooperated with the authorities without causing any difficulties, though he did not feel that this mitigated their offence enough to permit them to receive lesser punishments.

“The attorney for the defence has asked the trial chamber to release his three clients. Therefore, for the sake of law and social justice I ask the trial chamber to consider what the law demands,” he said.

Darasmey said that Chanthouk was promoted to the rank of Major General and Deputy Chief of Staff of the National Police and then arrested on April 16, 2021, while he was celebrating the promotion by drinking, dancing and singing with the other two defendants.

The case was heard by the municipal court and the verdict was announced on July 29, 2021. All three were convicted of obstructing the implementation of health and administrative measures under articles 3, 4 and 11 of the law on the control of Covid-19 and other contagious diseases.

The judge then sentenced Chanthouk to one and a half years in prison and a fine of 5 million riel and Lay Phearun and Kok Khy were sentenced to one year in prison and fined 5 million riel each as well.

However, Darasmey said, the three defendants exercised their right to contest the verdict and sentence and they appealed to the Court of Appeal, which held a trial hearing and announced their verdict on September 26, 2021, upholding the judgment of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

All of this was done lawfully and according to procedure and there was no reason to overturn the judgments of the lower courts, Darasmey said.

The Supreme Court will issue its verdict for the final appeal in the case in a hearing scheduled for January 24.