Chea Sim Bodyguard’s 10-Year Sentence Upheld

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a 10-year prison sentence for Senate President Chea Sim’s former bodyguard chief who was convicted on weapons and forgery charges.

The disgraced bodyguard, Chhoeun Chanthan, has also been convicted by a military court on separate charges of breach of trust and the illegal sale and destruction of military property, but the Supreme Court on Wednesday sent that case back to the Appeal Court to review the lengthy 26-year sentence.

Presiding Supreme Court Judge Khim Pon rejected Mr. Chanthan’s appeal of his February 2012 conviction by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for illegally possessing weapons, ordering the use of weapons without proper authority, forging documents and using forged documents.

“[The court] understands that it has enough evidence against Chhoeun Chanthan on those crimes,” Judge Pon concluded.

Mr. Chanthan insisted in court last month that his predecessor, Ouk Choeun—who was chief bodyguard for Mr. Sim before him, and his superior—was responsible for the forgery, in which the military ID of a dead colleague was used to bump Mr. Chanthan from the rank of Major to Lieutenant Colonel. He has also claimed that he was authorized to use the weapons he had and was ordered by Mr. Sim to store them in his home.

“The Supreme Court rejects Chhoeun Chanthan’s complaint and upholds the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict,” Judge Pon said.

But he said the Appeal Court should review the 26-year jail term delivered by the military court, also in February 2012.

“The Supreme Court understands that all five charges are correct, but the Supreme Court found that the charges were separated from each other,” Judge Pon said. He explained that under Article 138 of the penal code, when a person is convicted of multiple charges together, the convictions are combined and they should only be given the maximum sentence for the most serious crime of which they are guilty.

“Both lower courts [the military court and the Appeal Court] did not implement this principle,” he said. “The Supreme Court decided to send this case to the Appeal Court to try again.”

The most serious charge in the military court prosecution against Mr. Chanthan is the destruction of military property, which carries a jail sentence of between seven and 15 years, so Mr. Chanthan’s sentence would be reduced under the principle.

The convictions against Mr. Chanthan in February 2012 came alongside court verdicts against four other associates of Mr. Sim, who were convicted of tricking the elderly Senate president into signing bogus contracts—worth more than $100 million—with a foreign firm.

One of those was Pheng Kunthea Borey, Mr. Sim’s former protocol chief, who is now free, despite receiving a four-year jail term in December 2011, which was upheld on appeal in May.

Khlot Dara, chief of Prey Sar prison’s Correction Center 2, said Ms. Kunthea Borey was freed on Tuesday morning by Royal Pardon.

“She left the prison [Tuesday] morning at 10:30 a.m. She was brought out by her relatives,” Mr. Dara said, denying that the convict had been released on health grounds.

Muong Sokun, a lawyer who has represented Ms. Kunthea Borey, said he had heard his client was released but did not know why.

“I heard she had become a nun at a Phnom Penh pagoda, but I don’t know the pagoda’s name,” he said.

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