Six receive probation for building on a temple site

Kompong Chhnang Provincial Court on Nov 23 convicted six men, including a Thai national, of laying foundation in 2008 for a Camshin mobile telephone network tower on the site of Kompong Preah temple, one of the most important Pre-Angkorian temples, said Chea Saren, the clerk of the chief of the provincial court.

Only one defendant, Pheng Tith, was present in court, while the other five men—Yous Mara, Khous Sokchan, Sim Bunnat, Tith Hoklim and Thai national Vuthi Vat—were tried in absentia, Mr Saren said on Friday. All six men were sentenced to one year in jail, reduced to five years probation. The five absent defendants had been released on bail, but Mr Saren was not sure when.

He added that a Thai translator, Yeng Vannum, was also tried but was acquitted.

“The court decided to punish the six men…for digging up the ground and damaging the heritage site, and the court ordered the Camshin company to repair the site in cooperation with provincial culture and fine arts department,” Mr Saren said.

Camshin currently offers mobile services through the Mfone brand in Cambodia.

The men were arrested in March 2008 after they dug four large holes at the temple site in Boribor district. One of the holes was located in an area where one of the temple’s three towers collapsed long ago. The other two towers remained undamaged.

The temple is one of the few remaining from the reign of King Jayavarman I, who ruled from 647 to 681 and is prime example of the Kompong Preah architectural style, notable for its floral lintels.

Sok Thuok, director of the provincial culture and fine arts department, said yesterday that he did not know how much money Camshin would put into restoration but that he was pleased with the court’s decision.

“Please companies, do not do something that affects the heritage of our country,” he appealed.

Teang Sotha, provincial court chief, said he could not talk about the case because he was in a meeting. Both Nach Try, attorney for Camshin, and Penh Vibol, provincial prosecutor, declined to comment.

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