In a case international elections observers call a clear example of political intimidation, a Kompong Cham man was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison within days of his family reporting that a Sam Rainsy Party sign on their house had been shot at.
Lim Pheng, 22, was sentenced Monday by the Kompong Cham Provincial Court on a charge of illegal possession of a weapon, international observers and the Sam Rainsy Party said Tuesday.
The arrest, trial and sentencing took a total of five days, and Lim Pheng did not have a lawyer, observers reported.
Article 38 of the Constitution guarantees the right to defense in a criminal trial.
Kompong Cham court officials could not be reached Tuesday evening for comment.
The second floor of Lim Pheng’s three-story family home in O’Reang-Ou district is an office for the Sam Rainsy Party. Observers investigating the case said Lim Pheng’s mother, Ung Muy Heang, had rented the second floor to the opposition party.
On June 2, Sam Rainsy officially opened the office and gave a fiery speech condemning Second Prime Minister Hun Sen. That same night, the party sign was shot through.
Ung Muy Heang reported the shooting to village authorities, and police came to investigate June 3. They left in the morning but came back in the afternoon and said they believed there was a weapon in the family house. Ung Muy Heang said there was, and asked her son to fetch the weapon. She said it belonged to a family friend, according to the Sam Rainsy Party.
Lim Pheng brought the weapon, which was detached from its ammunition magazine, and the police took it. The next day, police returned and arrested Lim Pheng, the Sam Rainsy Party said.
Five days later he was convicted and sentenced by the provincial court.
One international observer investigating the case said Tuesday that evidence in the case was weak and legal procedures regarding arrest warrants and access to legal council were not followed, and that the speed with which the trial was conducted was unusual.
“To me, it is a very clear case of political intimidation where the court is working with the authorities who are part of a political party,” the observer said.
Another observer said Tuesday the government’s reaction to the case—which he too described as clearly an act of intimidation—will be a test as to whether such acts are isolated actions of individuals or whether they have the tacit approval of the government.