Three Dey Krahorm community activists were each sentenced to a suspended jail term of 18 months, five years of probation and to pay damages in a case filed against them by 7NG, the company that forcibly evicted residents of the Phnom Penh slum.
Chan Vichet, 31, Ly Youleng, 62, and Khieu Bunthoeun, 49, were found guilty by the Phnom Penh court of destroying private property and causing injury in a Dec 3, 2007, incident in which youths threw rocks at a 7NG excavator parked near Dey Krahorm land.
The three were also sentenced to pay 800,000 riel to 7NG, 1 million riel to In Va, the excavator driver, and 200,000 riel to his colleague Sok Kosal—a total of about $500.
“The company is using the court as knives to kill us,” Chan Vichet said. “I really didn’t do it.” He added that he intended to appeal.
Defense attorney Ham Sun-rith said the other two defendants were debating whether to appeal.
All seven witnesses who testified at the trial last week said Khieu Bunthoeun was inside his home at the time of the incident; Ly Youleng was watching from in front of her house; and Chan Vichet was pleading with the youths to stop via megaphone.
“The villagers seemed very well prepared when the incident happened. They gathered rocks very quickly,” Judge Chey Sovann said, explaining why, despite the testimony, he thought the three activists had played a role.
He added that Khieu Bunthoeun had already paid compensation to 7NG privately and had written a letter confessing his guilt.
Chan Vichet and Ham Sunrith said they hadn’t heard of such a letter. Khieu Bunthoeun couldn’t be reached.
“I am really very disappointed by this verdict because I was at the trial, I was in the room, I listened. There was no evidence that these three were guilty of anything,” said Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho.
According to the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions, the verdict is just another attempt at intimidation.
7NG representatives could not be reached for comment Monday.