The recent jailing of a Cambodian-American man for publicly displaying a banner claiming that he was the new leader of Cambodia following what he erroneously proclaimed was the death of Prime Minister Hun Sen was “arbitrary” and unfair, legal experts said Sunday.
Han Visot, 51, was arrested Wednesday outside the Royal Palace as he displayed a white banner claiming in blue paint that Prime Minister Hun Sen, along with his wife, eldest son and Interior Minister Sar Kheng, had died and that he had been appointed by his god to be the country’s new leader.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantarith said at the time of the arrest that Mr. Visot would have his mental health assessed as a first priority.
But Mr. Visot, representing himself in court, was sentenced on Thursday to two years imprisonment in a speedy trial that ignored Mr. Visot’s mental health condition.
“I am shocked about this,” said Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Center. “It is not a fair trial at all.”
Mr. Visot said before his trial that doctors in Minnesota thought he was “crazy” and wanted him to take medication, which he refused.
Prominent human rights lawyer Sok Sam Ouen said if there is enough evidence, cases can skip investigating judges and go straight to trial.
But the accused can prevent the procedure by request, he added.
“He [Mr. Visot] probably did not understand the process,” said Mr. Sam Ouen. “If he did not understand, then it is not fair. I don’t think this was a fair trial.”
Kong Pisey, senior lawyer for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said if Mr. Visot does suffer from mental illness, then “he cannot be held responsible for the crime he committed.”
Mr. Pisey added that a mental health assessment should have been carried out before the trial to determine Mr. Visot’s culpability.
“This is very unfair,” he said. “It is an arbitrary trial.”
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Im Vannak, who heard the case, could not be reached for comment.
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