Sok Bun, the real estate tycoon whose savage beating of TV personality Ek Socheata was caught on camera in July, was sentenced to three years in jail yesterday, with all but 10 months of that suspended.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Sor Lina also ordered the multimillionaire – who, due to time served, will now be free in about three months – to pay a fine of $1,500, $1,000 less than the maximum fine under the charges.
Neither Socheata nor Bun planned on appealing the ruling, their lawyers said.
Socheata’s co-lawyer, Lin Lanin, while tight-lipped about the sentence, acknowledged that an extrajudicial deal had been reached between her client and her attacker.
“I know there has been a deal, but I cannot tell you what,” she said over the phone yesterday. Socheata directed all questions to Lanin and her other lawyer Puth Theavy, who expressed satisfaction with the ruling.
“Ten months is a long time,” Theavy said over the phone. Late last month, Socheata unexpectedly announced in a letter that she had dropped her charges against Bun without explanation.
The media personality, better known as Ms Sasa, had previously been highly vocal in condemning Bun, telling reporters in July that she urged the court to “strongly punish him by laws” as her family denied any compensation would suffice.
But Socheata’s father Uth Thy, a tycoon in his own right who had taken a leading role in the case, said yesterday over the phone that his daughter had received “about $100,000” in compensation from Bun in an extrajudicial deal, a sum that a source close to Socheata who requested anonymity confirmed.
In July, Socheata publicly rejected a second compensation offering from Bun for the same amount, at the time comparing his offer to someone waiting too long to put water on an out-of-control fire.
Thy yesterday had mixed feelings about Bun’s sentence, expressing frustration that the tycoon had spent much of his jail time thus far receiving treatment in hospital, while also expressing joy that the tycoon had seen jail time at all.
“At least he experienced being in jail, even if for only 10 days. At least a tycoon went to jail,” he said.
When contacted yesterday, Dr Chhoeung Yav Yen, deputy director of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, told the Post that Bun had been residing at his hospital since late January. He was still receiving care there for a variety of vague ailments including “stress” and “heart problems”, said Yen.
Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said that while three years was a fair sentence for Bun’s crimes, serving less than a year of actual jail time was “too short”. “It’s not fair in our opinion,” he said.
Going a step further, Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia, lambasted the judge’s decision and expressed disbelief at the “ridiculous” sentence.
“I would like to see Sok Bun stay for his entire three-year sentence,” said Sopheap, who added that the case set a poor example for perpetrators of violence against women.
“If the justice system in Cambodia is like this, who can trust the justice system in Cambodia? No one. And what about the bodyguard?” she said.
Bun’s bodyguard, who has never been identified, is seen in the video threatening Socheata with a handgun.
When asked about the nameless bodyguard, director of the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Penal Police Sok Khemarin said police are currently awaiting direction from the court on whether or not to seek his arrest.
In July, Khemarin told Post reporters that authorities could not “let the bodyguard off the hook”.