The Banteay Meanchey provincial court convicted an accused member of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters Tuesday and sentenced him to three years in prison for his membership in the rebel group, despite conceding that the accused was not involved in any CFF-related attacks and most likely joined only for money.
“[The accused] wanted to take money from the CFF, and to cheat the CFF,” said Banteay Meanchey provincial Judge Ieng Khlin. “But he was a simple person and was not really involved in the CFF.”
Tin Chhi, 41, was tried alone. Ieng Khlin said the court used a CFF membership card with the defendant’s name and photo on it as evidence against him.
Hong Kim Suon, Tin Chhi’s lawyer, said his client did not contest the verdict and will not file an appeal. Tin Chhi was never involved in any CFF-related attacks and joined only because CFF recruits in Banteay Meanchey offered him money, Hong Kim Suon contended. Hong Kim Suon said Tin Chhi was once a member of Funcinpec, but that his client had revised a previous claim and stated that he was a “simple person” with no affiliation to any political party.
The government has now convicted 95 people for their alleged membership and involvement in the rebel group that led a failed attack in the capital on Nov 24, 2000.
Tin Chhi was arrested on Sept 23, 2001, one of 64 suspected CFF members authorities rounded up in the second wave of arrests made last September and October. Of those 64, the government has convicted 39 CFF members of terrorism and other charges. Some 56 CFF members arrested immediately after the Nov 24 fighting were convicted in Phnom Penh in June and November 2001 for their alleged involvement in the attack. The convictions have come under fire from critics who claim the courts lack evidence to prove the crimes they say have been committed by alleged CFF members.
Many were found guilty merely because their name was on a list of suspected CFF members.
“With the second group of CFF arrests, it’s been almost impossible for us to determine if the authorities have had arrest warrants or what kind of evidence they have against [the accused], because we have not had access to any of the suspects,” said Naly Pilorge, head of the NGO Licadho.