SRP Official Charged With Illegal Confinement

The Kompong Thom Provincial Court on Wednesday charged an SRP commune chief with illegal con­finement for his suspected involvement in the alleged detainment of a former SRP commune councilor, officials said.

The charge against Pongro commune chief Thuon Saron comes one day after he was arrested for allegedly transporting Tim Norn, formerly an SRP commune councilor for Baray commune, against her will to Phnom Penh on Feb 14.

Provincial Court Prosecutor Ty Sovannthal said Wednesday that Thuon Saron had been charged by the court with illegal confinement, but declined to comment further.

Prime Minister Hun Sen an­nounced Monday that he had put for­mer SRP lawmaker Sok Pheng, who defected to the CPP last month, in charge of investigating Tim Norn’s alleged detention by SRP officials who he claimed were trying to prevent her from joining the CPP.

Chiv Eng, lawyer for Thuon Saron, said Wednesday that his client was innocent.

“My client denied that he de­tained [Tim Norn] and in fact, he helped the victim,” he said, adding that Tim Norn had told his client she feared repercussions from rethinking her decision to join the CPP.

Ket Khy, SRP lawmaker for Kom­pong Thom province, said he was present when the prosecutor questioned Thuon Saron and claimed that there was insufficient evidence for the charge.

Sok Pheng, who is now a government adviser, said Wednesday that he had taken Tim Norn to the UN human rights office in Phnom Penh on Tuesday and then to local rights group Adhoc on Wednesday to ask for help.

“My job, through Hun Sen’s order, is only to make a report to human rights groups about the abuse,” Sok Pheng said.

SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang questioned Sok Pheng’s motives in the case and ac­cused him of creating this scenario to please his new party. “This is a show for the CPP,” he said.

Eng Chhay Eang claimed that Sok Pheng stepped down from the SRP after the party accused him of taking a bribe from someone seeking a position within the SRP.

“Sok Pheng asked to step down because he could not solve this case,” he said, but declined to name who allegedly paid the bribe or how much was paid.

Sok Pheng denied Eng Chhay Eang’s accusation and said that he quit the SRP because it was corrupt.

“Please show me the person who I made promises with,” he said.

Tim Norn could not be reached for comment through a telephone number provided by Sok Pheng.

Christophe Peschoux, country re­presentative for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, confirmed that his office in­terviewed Tim Norn on Tuesday and will continue to investigate the matter.

“At first glance, it seems to us that arresting someone on the basis of a claim by another individual, without checking the claim and collecting serious evidence, is questionable, from a legal point of view,” he wrote by e-mail. He added that he hopes the court has more evidence than “just a claim to justify the arrest of individuals.”

Adhoc Coordinator Chan Soveth said that he met with both Sok Pheng and Tim Norn, but declined to comment on the case.

Kompong Thom Provincial Court issued warrants Tuesday for two other SRP officials, Men Van­nak, a councilor for Sralao commune, and Thorn Rithy, deputy chief of the SRP’s Kompong Thom provincial council, for their alleged involvement in the case.

Thorn Rithy said Wednesday by telephone that he is hiding in Phnom Penh with Men Vannak and seeking the help of local rights groups.

(Additional reporting by James Welsh)

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