Cheam Channy Trial Begins Amid Scrutiny Latest UN Reform Plan

In the glare of spotlights and with television cameras and RCAF soldiers on standby, the trial of opposition parliamentarian Cheam Channy opened at the Military Court on Monday.

Soldiers and senior foreign dip­lomats looked on as a composed Cheam Channy was escorted into the courtroom, before a handful of wit­nesses for the prosecution who ac­cused him of using them to re­cruit thousands of troops for a so-called illegal armed force.

Cheam Channy’s defense was not allowed to interview the witnesses, and defense witnesses were not allowed to testify.

“I want you to release me,” Cheam Channy told the court, ad­ding that he had operated a shadow government but not an illegal armed force.

“What I’ve done is without any wil­lingness for destruction, but with the intention to develop the country,” Cheam Channy said.

The first witness, Long Sary, a con­struction worker in Phnom Penh, claimed that Cheam Chan­ny promoted him, in the alleged il­legal armed force, to a rank equal to commander of RCAF Division 14 in Banteay Meanchey province. Long Sary said he was also promoted to the rank of deputy chief of staff at Military Region Five in Battambang province.

After the shadow appointments, Long Sary said he recruited troops for the illegal armed force.

“I recruited 40,000 troops” the construction worker told the court.

“All the staff I recruited were dressed in army uniform,” Long Sary said, adding that documents proving this have since been burn­ed.

The courtroom audience snickered during Long Sary’s testimony.

“I can’t remember everything be­cause Cheam Channy cheated me and I became crazy now. He cheated me a lot,” Long Sary said.

Long Sary added that although the 40,000 troops did not have wea­pons, police and military would have joined them if they rose up against the government.

“Whenever we fight, troops inside the government will come out and fight,” he said.

The second witness, Keo Sith­an, said he recruited 64 people for the illegal armed force while a third witness, Thach Vang, said he re­cruited 1,800 people.

Cheam Channy recruited former Khmer Rouge and Lon Nol soldiers, and “jobless students,” Thach Vang told the court.

Nine witnesses were scheduled to give evidence, but only five gave testimony.

Cheam Channy said he appointed more than 100 people for the shadow government, in­cluding teachers, garment factory workers, police, soldiers and motorbike taxi drivers.

They had to provide information to him on development, land-grabbing by RCAF officials, factory demonstrations and villager pro­tests, he said.

“We used the information to discuss in the party, or to send to the National Assembly, or we go to help them,” he said.

But military prosecutor Prum Sorn Thon said Cheam Channy’s spokesmen were used “to find out top secret issues inside the army.”

“It’s a serious mistake to be punished by the law,” Prum Sorn Thon said.

“This group also cheated mo­ney from people,” in return for jobs in the government and police, he said. “I can assure that this is a scam.”

Mao Sophearith, Cheam Chan­ny’s lawyer, compared the shadow government to similar entities in the UK, Australia and Japan.

“This is a preparation of human resources to replace the government when the [Sam Rainsy] Party is elected,” he said. “The confessions of the witnesses are baseless.

“If Long Sary had recruited 40,000 people…where are they, and what are their names?” he asked.

Mao Sophearith alleged that the witnesses for the prosecution broke the law by giving false testimony and should be punished.

Officials from the US, Australian and British embassies attended the trial but declined comment.

Naly Pilorge, director of local rights group Licadho, condemned the proceedings.

“There was absolutely no credible evidence shown to back up the charges brought against Mr Cheam Channy,” she said. “Today was an example of a show trial. It was an outrage.”

The verdict is expected to be announced today.


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