After the Kompong Cham provincial court on Tuesday released a village chief convicted of unintentionally killing a teenage girl, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights voiced its dismay Wednesday.
“The Cambodian Center for Human Rights believes that the court’s verdict on the killing of 16-year-old Khoun Dina was not determined according to the laws and shows injustice,” a statement from the organization said.
“CCHR demands there be punishment for the killer Ngoun Oun commensurate to the crime he committed,” the statement continued.
Judge Tith Sothy decided Tuesday that Ngoun Oun, a village chief in the Chhup rubber plantation, never intended to kill Khoun Dina. The fatal bullet from Ngoun Oun’s AK-47 had ricocheted, he ruled.
Keat Sokun of CCHR said Wednesday that Ngoun Oun never even had the authority to be carrying a firearm, much less to be firing it at people, regardless of his intentions.
The victim’s attorney, Chum Sovannaly, asked the court to convict Ngoun Oun of illegal use of a weapon as well as premeditated killing, but Tith Sothy did not address the village chief’s use of the assault rifle in his verdict.
Keat Sokun also criticized Tith Sothy’s method of determining Ngoun Oun’s intentions.
After Ngoun Oun told the court that he fired his first shot into the sky and the second into the ground, Tith Sothy spent much of the trial asking witnesses who saw Khoun Dina’s corpse where the bullet had entered and left her body. Tith Sothy had them point to the locations, generally at the back of the lower left shoulder and at the right breast, on their bodies. Then he had a court official measure the distances between the points.
From that exercise, repeated five times, Tith Sothy ruled that the fatal shot had been accidental, because had Ngoun Oun aimed at Khoun Dina “the entrance hole and the exit hole would be of similar height and would not go from left to right.”
“There is no other proof that the bullet hit the ground first and then hit the body,” Keat Sokun said. “Normally, there should be a specialist.”
Chan Soveth, an investigator for the human rights group Adhoc, complained Wednesday that Ngoun Oun had been tried with little investigation into the killing.
He also said that Khoun Dina’s family now fears for its security since a representative of Ngoun Oun paid the girl’s father, Chan Mony, $3,000 in compensation for her death.
The payment was supposed to ensure that a trial would not be pursued, he said.
Another Adhoc investigator said after Ngoun Oun’s arrest three weeks ago that the village chief is the nephew of Mok Kim Hong, boss of the Chhup Rubber Plantation Co.
Saku Akmeemana, spokeswoman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said Tuesday evening that the organization is also “seriously concerned” about the conduct of the trial.