Disbarred Lawyer Jailed for Fight With Journalists

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday sentenced disbarred lawyer and onetime government adviser David Chanaiwa and his nephew to three years and two years in jail respectively for causing intentional violence during a fight with reporters.

Compensation had already been agreed between the victims and defendants, but Mr. Chanaiwa, 40, was also fined 6 million riel, or about $1,500, while his nephew, Ou Pi, 22, received a fine of about $1,000, Judge Chang Sinath said.

“The court found both defendants guilty because all the evidence and witness testimony shows that they fought with the journalists,” Judge Sinath said.

Mr. Chanaiwa and Mr. Pi allegedly started the fight with journalists who had arrived on the scene after Mr. Pi crashed his car on Monivong Boulevard shortly after midnight on March 19.

During the hearing, the pair admitted to having drunk “three or four” beers before getting into their cars—a red Mini Cooper and a silver Honda CR-V—to drive to another bar.

“I will appeal the court’s decision,” Mr. Chanaiwa said with his head lowered as he was escorted out of the courtroom.

Mr. Chanaiwa earned his law degree in the U.S., but in 2003 he was disbarred in Cambodia for advertising his services during an 18-month suspension. He also has a history of reckless driving—in 2005 he spent more than one month in jail for driving his Hummer across Hun Sen Park.

Sovann Sokha, the father of two of the journalists who were attacked, said outside the courtroom that he agreed with the court’s decision because it sent a warning to the Cambodian public that it is not permissible to assault reporters.

“It is a message to the high-ranking officials to not beat journalists,” he said.

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