Photo by: PHAR LINA
Som Ek, head of the Khmer National Union Front and the alleged mastermind behind a series of foiled bomb attacks across the capital since 2007, appears outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday where he protested his innocence as the final arguments were heard.
HEARINGS in the trial of five men accused of organising a series of failed bombings concluded on Tuesday in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, with prosecutors maintaining that the group intended to topple the government.
The men are accused of planting explosives outside the Defence Ministry and state television station TV3 in January this year, as well as the Vietnamese Friendship Monument in 2007. Charges relate to delivering, placing, discharging or detonating an explosive or lethal device in a public place, and recruiting and training terrorists for the Khmer National Unity Front [KNUF], also known as the Tiger Head Movement.
“Police have suspected [Tiger Head Movement leader] Som Ek since 2007, who was then known as Chea To, when he masterminded a bomb attack at the Cambodian-Vietnamese Friendship monument,” said prosecutor Hing Bunchea. “Som Ek’s activities show he intended to topple the government by setting up an illegal political party and armed forces.”
Som Ek told the court that police detained him for six weeks without a lawyer and forced him to confess to the charges. He admitted to having formed the KNUF, but said it “mainly aimed to register a formal party in the Ministry of the Interior, which required at least 5,000 people, which is not a felony. I ask the court for justice for myself and the other four men here and for all charges to be dropped.”
The remaining men – Loeuk Bunhean, Pov Vannara, Phy Savoeung and Chea Kimyan – also denied involvement.
Loeuk Bunhean wept as he asked the court to release him to his family. “I request that the court drop the charges levelled against me for involvement in [Som Ek’s] activities, which are not true. If there was evidence that I was involved with his crazy group, then please give me a life sentence,” he said.
The verdict is scheduled for December 30. If convicted, the men will face between 20 and 30 years in prison.