A military officer convicted of fraud and sentenced to one year in prison in October is still employed by the National Defense University (NDU), the school confirmed this week, despite the fact that the officer’s co-conspirator is now behind bars.
Kim Sokhon, an administrator at NDU, has confessed to accepting $10,000 from plaintiff Heng Rithy in exchange for securing entry to the university for the man’s three nephews, passing along most of the sum to fellow NDU staffer Ouk Sithorn to assist with the applications.
Despite the fact that both men were pronounced guilty at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in October last year, only Mr. Sithorn was sent to prison, while Mr. Sokhon—who did not attend his trial or sentencing for reasons that remain unexplained—has continued his duties at the university.
Sar Moeun, vice rector of NDU, said he had heard “rumors” about Mr. Sokhon’s criminal conviction but would not dismiss the administrator from his job unless an official warrant was issued.
“I have wondered why he is still free and comes to work every day, even when the court has charged him,” he said.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said responsibility for having a convicted person arrested lay with the case’s presiding judge.
“The arrest warrant is up to the judge,” he said but declined to comment when asked whether a judge was allowed to refrain from issuing a warrant for a convicted criminal.
“For this technical issue, I will refer to the technical experts [at the court],” he said.
Top Chhun Heng, the presiding judge in the case, declined to comment on why the court had not issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Sokhon.
Sok Sam Oeun, an attorney and expert on Cambodian law, said a judge could only refrain from issuing a warrant during the 45-day period in which the accused is allowed to request a retrial or an appeal.
“If it is past that time, the judge must issue an arrest warrant,” he said. “Maybe he forgot.”
In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Sokhon claimed—in contravention to his earlier confession—that he had merely facilitated the bribe and did not pocket the $10,000 himself. He said he had been treated with leniency because he had explained this to the court.
“I went to the court a few times to tell the whole story about bribes,” he said. “I have enough to document that I handed the money to Sithorn.”
“I am a victim in that too. That’s why the court has not summoned me.”
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