Friends Mark 4th Year of Pair’s Imprisonment

Marking the fourth anniversary of their imprisonment Monday, relatives and supporters of the two men serving 20-year sentences for the killing of Free Trade Union President Chea Vichea held a ceremony at Phnom Penh’s Wat Svay Pope.

Following a Buddhist ceremony, the parents of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun—the two jailed men whom many believe to be innocent—called on the government and King Norodom Sihamoni to release their sons.

“I hope that through this Bud­dhist ceremony we’ll convince [government officials] to release my son,” Sok Sam Oeun’s father, Vuong Phun, said after the ceremony was finished.

Born Samnang’s mother, Nguon Kimsry, said that she hasn’t given up hope that her son will be released.

“I appeal to the King, the prime minister, Samdech [Senate and CPP President] Chea Sim and [National Assembly and CPP Honorary President] Heng Samrin to intervene with the court and to release my son so that he can return home,” she said.

Sunday, several local rights groups, including the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee and the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, issued a joint statement calling for the release of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun.

“The denial of justice to the family of Chea Vichea, and the continued imprisonment of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, reflects poorly on the state of law in Cambodia,” the statement said.

Chea Vichea was gunned down on Jan 22, 2004, at a newsstand outside Wat Langka.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were arrested a week later and found guilty of the killing on Aug 1, 2005, despite witness testimony that placed them elsewhere on the day of the attack.

In April, the Appeal Court upheld the Phnom Penh Munic­ipal Court’s guilty verdict, and one month later the pair’s lawyers filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

Sok Sam Oeun’s lawyer, Hong Kimsoun, said Monday that his client’s hearing at the Supreme Court was awaiting a statement from current Free Trade Union President Chea Mony, brother of Chea Vichea, detailing what outcome the family desires from the court.

Chea Mony said by telephone that he had not submitted the family’s statement to the Su­preme Court, which the court requested in October, because of his general disdain for the judicial system.

“If we go to the court, it’s just like we play a game with the government,” Chea Mony said, but added that he would submit the statement soon.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith wrote by e-mail Mon­day that requests for the government to intervene in the case were “strange,” as Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were convicted by a court of law.

“The best way is to find good lawyers [for the two men] and these rights groups have enough funding to find good ones,” wrote Khieu Kanharith, who did not rule out the possibility of a pardon by the King.

“What the government can do is, after some period, ask the King to pardon them,” he added, but he did not elaborate.

“My sympathy goes to the two mothers, but I do not have all the document to claim or disclaim the innocence of these two boys, as do all the right[s] organizations.”

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