Four counts related to forgery, illegal weapons possession
After hours of questioning, prosecutors at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday handed down four charges related to forgery and illegal weapons possession to Lieutenant General Chhoeun Chanthan, former chief of CPP President Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit.
“The court charged Chhoeun Chanthan with four things: The first is illegal weapons possession, the second is ordering use of the weapons without authority, the third, forgery of public documents, and the fourth, use of forged public documents,” said Meas Chanpiseth, deputy prosecutor at the court.
Mr Chanpiseth refused to elaborate on the charges or provide information on the context in which the crimes were committed.
According to Mr Chanpiseth, someone within Mr Chea Sim’s Cabinet filed the complaint against the bodyguard chief, who was also a personal adviser to Mr Chea Sim until being fired from both positions by Royal decree this weekend.
Lieutenant General Yim Leang, who on Saturday was named Lt Gen Chanthan’s replacement, said he believed members of the Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit made the complaints.
At court yesterday, an impassive Lt Gen Chanthan was escorted in and out by municipal military police and refused to comment. His lawyer, Holl Sina, also declined to comment on the case.
On Saturday, Lt Gen Chanthan was arrested at his home in Chamkar Mon district’s Boeng Keng Kang III commune. During the raid, police confiscated a number of weapons including four handguns, seven additional firearms, including a light machine gun, and 1,400 bullets.
Lt Gen Chanthan’s arrest raised eyebrows this week due to his close connection to Mr Chea Sim.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the willingness of the government to fire Lt Gen Chanthan before charges were filed could raise questions.
“They removed and replaced him with another so quickly. Maybe there’s a political aspect to the dismissal of the general,” said Mr Mong Hay.
“They also undermined the presumption of innocence as well by firing him before that.”
Though a number of analysts interviewed yesterday said there was nothing overtly political in the speedy arrest and firing, some called attention to the fact that a single high-ranking figure was arrested for crimes of which many could be accused.
“Why this person and not that person?” asked historian Sonn Soubert.
“Many of them are involved with dirty situations,” he said.
Political analyst Chea Vannath said she was chary of assigning a political motive to the arrest.
“As a concerned citizen, I am pleased to hear that whomever holds weapons needs to have formal authorizations . . . it seems more of a technical situation than political. This is my gut reaction,” she said.