Two days after a woman was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined one million riel (about $250) for shooting a pistol in the air in Phnom Penh last week, her well-connected husband sent a letter to Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema criticizing the sentence and attempting to explain the situation.
Ke Dara, also known as Keo Rattanak, 30, shot a pistol into the air several times in front of a Meanchey district medical clinic on Sept 28 and was sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court two days later. Her husband, Hong Mong Heng, 38, is an adviser to National Assembly president Heng Samrin.
In a letter sent Friday, Mr Mong Heng explained to Mr Chuktema that his wife had been on her way to deliver mooncakes to relatives when a Honda CRV cut her off. Fearing a kidnapping, she shot into the air to signal her distress to police, according to Mr Mong Heng.
Afterward, he said, two opportunists posing as journalists tried to extort money from her, which infuriated her so much that she began to shout and swear. The ensuing scene caused several actual journalists to publish stories accusing Ms Dara of being “a gangster woman,” an epithet that may have influenced the court’s decision, according to Mr Mong Heng.
“Some newspapers spread that my wife is a gangster woman, and moreover, the investigating judge was not strict about collecting information from both sides of the story, and then the court sentenced my wife very quickly to 18 months and fined her one million riel,” he said in the letter.
“I can confirm that my wife is a good wife and mother, and we have two sons and an adopted daughter,” the letter continued.
Mr Mong Heng attached to the letter a copy of the 2008 royal decree appointing him to his position as Mr Samrin’s adviser.
Mr Chuktema could not be reached for comment yesterday.