Three RCAF generals were acquitted on June 29 in the first of a series of trials at Battambang Provincial Court over their alleged leadership of a band of armed robbers, officials said.
Judge Than Vanaroath found that Major General Ut Sakhan, Funcinpec’s deputy commander of Brigade 70; Brigadier General Khieng Savorn, a member of the SRP’s steering committee; and Brigadier General Men Saran, deputy commander of Military Region 2 and a former Funcinpec member, were not guilty of masterminding one of the five robberies for which they have been charged, officials said.
“Because my client is not linked with those armed bandits, the decision made by the judge is quite right,” said Bun Rithy, attorney for Ut Sakhan. The men still face charges of robbery, murder and conspiracy in robbery, Than Vanaroath said July 1.
The three men were arrested in January and charged with armed robbery and creating an illegal armed force for allegedly masterminding a series of robberies in Battambang province in which, police said, 40 motorcycles were stolen and two people killed.
Officials said at the time that seven armed robbers caught by police had implicated the generals during questioning.
Attorney Hong Chansokha, who represented Men Saran, said that during the generals’ June 15 hearing, one of the alleged robbers, Um Chhay, recanted his confession.
“The bandit only knew my client, but they never had any interaction involving these allegations,” Hong Chansokha said.
“I am hopeful that the July hearings will provide justice for my client,” he said.
At least two of the generals were released on bail following their initial arrest.
Deputy Court Prosecutor Kouy Kan Ya could not be reached for comment.
SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua said that Khieng Savorn was far too ill to have participated in any illegal armed force.
“I appeal to and hope that the judge will provide justice during the other hearings,” she said. “[Khieng Savorn] must be found not guilty.”
(Additional reporting by Chhay Channyda)