Amnesty International may have dubbed his latest court victory a travesty for Cambodian justice, but lawyer Yin Wengka says he is pleased with the result.
Yin Wengka, who represented Nhim Sophea at an Aug 26 Appeals Court hearing where the prime minister’s nephew was acquitted of an involuntary manslaughter conviction, described the ruling as a tribute to his professionalism.
“I felt proud to win the Nhim Sophea case,” Yin Wengka said in an interview this week.
“I don’t have anyone powerful behind me,” he added.
The once little-known lawyer has now taken on the controversial case of 83 women and girls at the heart of the Afesip women’s shelter raid in early December.
And the 42-year-old is conducting his latest high-profile case pro-bono on behalf of the embattled Chai Hour II Hotel, in hopes it will boost his profile and attract more clients.
“I don’t care about the government or the international community. I just care about my clients,” he said.
On Dec 22, Amnesty International slammed the Cambodian judicial system for allowing Nhim Sophea to walk free in a statement titled “Cambodia: Getting away with murder.”
Nhim Sophea was found guilty by the Municipal Court of involuntary manslaughter for his role in the shooting of innocent passersby on Oct 27, 2003, following a car crash that had already killed one person.
Though described publicly by Hun Sen as a troublemaker who deserved to spend time in prison, Yin Wengka painted a gentler picture of the prime minister’s nephew.
“[He] got along with me, I don’t know about [with] others,” he said.
Yin Wengka is uncertain what his next case will be, although he has not ruled out defending the Khmer Rouge leaders in the upcoming tribunal.
“If someone asks me to do it, I’ll do it,” he said.
Those in the legal profession who know Yin Wengka describe him as rising unexpectedly through the ranks after serving for several years as a court clerk at Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court and Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
“He is a person from a simple family,” said lawyer Dy Borima, who had earlier defended Nhim Sophea at the Municipal Court.
“How does he win cases?” asked one legal expert, noting that in the less-than-independent world of the Cambodian judiciary, lawyers like Yin Wengka often act more like mediators than lawyers.
“The court is very corrupt. Do you think private lawyers dare to fight the court?” the legal expert asked.