The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced a 16-year-old boy to 10 years in prison and ordered him to pay $20,000 in compensation for conspiracy in killing the wife of a senior Funcinpec official, Deputy Prosecutor Plang Sophal said Thursday.
Judge Suong Samnang convicted Kuoch Thul on Wednesday for conspiracy in the murder of Khun Srey Mom, the wife of Ministry of Post and Telecommunications Secretary of State Khay Khun Heng, at the Funcinpec-aligned TV9 television station in January. The judge considered the crime to be an extension of a robbery, Plang Sophal said.
Kuoch Thul’s lawyer, Muth Piseth, immediately condemned the sentence handed down by the judge as too heavy. But Plang Sophal said the sentence was already light, and that the teenager would have been sentenced to 15 or 20 years if he were tried as an adult.
“[Kuoch Thul] facilitated the robber in helping tie up the [victim’s] hands and stuck the mouth with tape,” Plang Sophal said, adding that three witnesses had testified in the trial against the teenager.
Muth Piseth said that she would appeal the verdict.
“This is not justice for a minor—he didn’t commit the crime… he didn’t know the city, and he didn’t have any connection with anyone,” she said.
She said that the family of the accused was poor and could not afford to pay the compensation to the victim’s family.
The victim, who is also a sister of Funcinpec Minister of Cults and Religions Khun Haing, was found dead outside TV9, where she had been shot in the leg and was either thrown or fell from a third-floor room.
Kuoch Thul claimed at the time that he was in the room with Khun Srey Mom when a black-clad man entered the room and forced him to gag the victim before the stranger shot her.
Plang Sophal said by telephone that the teenager did not confess to the crime, and that investigators have no leads as to the identity of the stranger who shot the victim. An unknown amount of cash and jewelry has not been recovered either, he said.
The teenager was found guilty because the unidentified attacker had called out the youngster’s name during the robbery, Plang Sophal said.
Ouch Leng, a monitor for rights group Adhoc who monitored the trial, said that the premise of a robbery seemed to be fabricated.
“It is a grudge case in the family rather than a robbery,” Ouch Leng said, adding that Kuoch Thul tied up the victim because he had been threatened at gunpoint.
Khay Khun Heng, Khun Srey Mom’s husband, said that there was no dispute in his family and that the robbers’ familiarity with the building had enabled them to find the room with his wife.