Human rights, courts and police officials Wednesday blasted a provincial judge for incompetence and corruption one day after he sentenced four men convicted of the triple killing of a Ratanakkiri province family to only four months in prison.
“The court was incapable of solving this problem,” Adhoc deputy Chan Soveth said. Ratanakkiri provincial Judge Nong Sok sentenced Nou Keang, 30, Houm Yat, 51, Doun Come, 57, and Souy Sem, 54, to four months in prison each for the July 7 killings of Pouch Toun, 61, his son Poch Sroun, 26, and his granddaughter Poch Rotha, 9.
The judge handed down the sentence in spite of convicting the men of intentional murder, which by law carries a prison term of 10 to 20 years, Chan Soveth said.
Several phone calls to Nong Sok went unanswered Wednesday, but principal court clerk Ung Ken confirmed the judge’s decision, adding that the judge had acquitted a fifth man, Ma Doul.
The four men were charged with murder in a case prosecutors claim was over black magic, Ratanakkiri Chief of Penal Police Chea Bun Thoeun said. The men believed Pouch Toun was a sorcerer. They invited Poch Sroun and Poch Rotha on a boat trip on a nearby body of water, Chea Bun Thoeun said.
When the group returned to the dock, the men attacked the family, Chea Bun Thoeun said, beating Poch Sroun to death with paddles. Poch Rotha leaped from the boat and fled into the jungle. Her killers were able to find her, however, because she was crying loudly, the chief said.
They beat her unconscious and dragged her into the water nearby, where she drowned, Chea Bun Thoeun said.
The next day, Pouch Toun went looking for his son and granddaughter and was fatally shot in the neck by the same men, who left his body in the water.
Chea Bun Thoeun said Tuesday’s sentences were a disappointment. “The killers should have been put in jail for their whole lives,” he said.
Even Ung Ken condemned the sentences. “The sentences aren’t fair,” he said.
The case is a setback for Cambodia’s judiciary, Chan Soveth said. “This is an abuse of the human rights law,” he said.