A Kampot province court Thursday convicted four men—including a high-ranking police officer—but acquitted another high-ranking police official who allegedly masterminded two grenade attacks authorities attribute to bitterness over a job transfer.
Judge Pak Layi convicted former Kampot province penal police chief Suy Sok and former Khmer Rouge soldiers Long Man, Meas Chork and Srey Loy of premeditated killing for the purpose of terrorism in a Feb 9, 1997, grenade attack and an April 16, 2001, attack in the same Kampot town gambling hall.
But he acquitted former Kampot province police chief Seng Sokun, the suspected mastermind, of the same charges, the judge said in a Thursday interview. “We lacked the evidence to convict him of the charges,” the judge said.
Police allege Suy Sok and Seng Sokun plotted the attacks, in which eight persons were killed and 56 others wounded, because Seng Sokun was angry he had been transferred from Kampot to an office job in Phnom Penh.
Authorities said both men believed that the attacks would convince national police authorities that the area was slipping into chaos without Seng Sokun and return him to his old post.
The judge denied his decision to acquit Seng Sokun was influenced by anyone. The three former Khmer Rouge soldiers admitted in their confessions they had met with Suy Sok several times to get instructions and orders for the attack, but never with Seng Sokun.
The judge said he had no choice but to acquit Seng Sokun.
“This is an injustice,” defense lawyer Puth Theavy said. Puth Theavy not only was angry about his clients’ life sentences, but that Seng Sokun was let go.
“I am not happy,” Puth Theavy said. Neither were prosecutors, who said they plan to file an appeal of their own.
Observers have criticized Cambodia’s judiciary for years, saying judges are biased and take instructions from the government on major cases. In his visit to Cambodia last week, Peter Leuprecht, the UN’s top human rights official for Cambodia, said the judiciary had improved but was still too corrupt to guarantee human rights.