Gov’t to Appeal Vietnam on Death Sentences

The Foreign Affairs Ministry will lodge an appeal to the Vietna­mese government concerning two Cambodians who have been sentenced to death by the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Chum Sounry, director of the press department at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said on Wednes­day the Cambodian Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City has been in­structed to intervene and appeal the two death sentences and a 17-year sentence for a third Cam­bodian. The identities of the criminals, convicted of trafficking heroin, must also be confirmed, he said.

“If the consular general confirms that these persons are Cambodian citizens, the consu­lar general will appeal the sentences of the three,” said Chum Sounry.

Officials say the case marks the first time Cambodian nationals have been sentenced to death by a court in any land. Capital punishment is unconstitutional in Cambodia, though suspected criminals are regularly beaten to death by vigilante mobs. Dozens of cases of extrajudicial killings by police and other authorities also have been documented in recent years by human rights workers.

Chu Dong Loc, spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, confirmed Wed­nes­day that a Ho Chi Minh City court passed the death penalty on two Cambodians last week. A third Cambodian was given a long prison sentence, according to Chu Dong Loc.

“I was informed that three Cambodians were sentenced in Vietnam for the crime [of drug smuggling]….Two to death and one for 17 years in prison,” said Chu Dong Loc, adding that the sentences can be appealed up to seven days after the court judgment is passed.

However, Heng Vong Bun­chatt, a government lawyer based at the Council of Ministers, said Wednesday that there is nothing Cambodia can do to prevent the executions except appeal to the Vietnamese government to commute their sentences to prison terms.

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