Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday convicted a Sihanoukville customs official of insulting the wife of Supreme Court President Dith Munty while clearing him of an attempted murder charge, judge Ke Sakhorn said Wednesday.
Prak Chanthy was sentenced to eight days in prison, time he had already served following his arrest in December of 2002, the judge said, adding that he could not explain why the case had taken over four years to come to trial.
Neither Dith Munty nor his wife could be reached for comment on Wednesday.
With no legal counsel present, Prak Chanthy testified Monday that in 2002 he returned a telephone call from an unknown woman who he said called him a “dead man,” Ke Sakhorn said.
“I don’t know how he dialed but he reached the landline of the wife of his excellency Dith Munty,” the judge said. “He cursed back. I don’t know how he cursed,” he added.
At a Jan 12 trial in absentia, Prak Chanthy was given five month’s probation after being cleared of attempted murder but convicted of making insults over the phone, Ke Sakhorn said.
“He was charged with attempted murder too but there was no evidence,” he said, adding that he did not know what gave rise to the attempted murder charge.
Municipal chief prosecutor Ouk Savouth said he was insufficiently familiar with the case to comment.
Kun Nhem, deputy director of the Finance Ministry’s customs and excise department, declined to comment.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the legal aid NGO Cambodian Defender’s Project, said the conviction set a bad example. “Will all the people who insult each other in the markets be jailed?” he asked.
Article 63 of the Untac penal code, which deals with insult, should only concern insults published or broadcast in the media, though some judges may differ as to its interpretation, he added.