Heng Pov’s conviction affirmed by high court

October 22nd, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the murder convictions of former Phnom Penh Municipal Police chief Heng Pov and three others in the case of the 2003 killing of Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Sok Sethamoni.

Defendants Pov, Ly Rasy, Hang Vutha and Prum Sophearith have been convicted on a raft of charges – including multiple high-profile murders – since their arrests in 2006, but have consistently blamed the late, disgraced ex-National Police chief Hok Lundy and former head of penal police at the Ministry of Interior Mok Chito for framing them. …

Kim Sarom

Beyond Chea Vichea, Many Cases Lack Accountability, Justice

January 21st, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Ahead of the 10-year anniversary on Wednesday of the assassination of Free Trade Union (FTU) President Chea Vichea, police said Monday that despite their inability to bring anyone to justice for the high-profile slaying, the case remains open.

However, Chea Mony, the brother of Chea Vichea, reiterated his long-held belief that the government covered up the killing of his sibling.

“I think that the murderers are protected by their master, which is the government; if they did not have a master, they would be arrested,” said Mr. Mony, who went on to replace his brother as president of the FTU in 2004. …

Two scapegoats for the murder, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, each served five years in prison before they were finally released on the order of the Supreme Court due to lack of evidence.

When asked Monday why no one had yet faced justice for killing the country’s highest-profile union leader 10 years ago this week, Lieutenant General Mok Chito, director of the Interior Ministry’s Judicial Central Department, said an investigation was ongoing. …

But beyond the tragedy of Chea Vichea lies a litany of other “unsolved” cases: the murders of two other FTU leaders, 11 journalists, opposition party politicians and supporters, and garment factory workers.

Such cases have never been independently or credibly investigated by police, rights workers say.

Local human rights group Licadho has identified 10 fatal shootings by police or military police between 2012 and 2013 alone—none of which have resulted in a “credible prosecution or investigation.”

“Despite a progressive Constitution and ratification of most international treaties and conventions, the Cambodian government has systematically allowed law enforcement, military personnel and high-ranking government officials total impunity for the past two decades while its citizens are beaten, shot dead, wounded, arrested and sent to prison for only trying to raise critical social and human rights issues to the public,” Licadho director Naly Pilorge said. …

Khy Sovuthy and Lauren Crothers

Suspects Freed; No Hope of Justice for Slain Union Leader

September 27th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang left Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Center 1 on Thursday for the last time, putting behind them an ordeal that has lasted nearly a decade during which they were wrongfully imprisoned for a total of five years each for the murder of popular Free Trade Union (FTU) leader Chea Vichea. …

Supreme Court presiding Judge Khim Pon on Tuesday informed the court the pair did not qualify for financial reparations despite the many years wrongly spent behind bars.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said that he regretted the court’s refusal to provide compensation.

Nevertheless, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath pledged $500 Thursday to each of the men to help them start putting their lives back together.

“I thank the Queen Mother for giving $500 to me, and I thank Licadho for giving me $100, 20 kg of milled rice and other provisions while we were in prison,” Mr. Samnang said. …

The case against Mr. Samnang, 33, and Mr. Sam Oeun, 45, snaked through Cambodia’s judicial system for nearly a decade, following their arrests days after the killing. …

Sam Pracheameanith, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana’s cabinet chief, declined to comment, as did judicial officials at the supreme and municipal courts on whether or not there would be a fresh investigation into Chea Vichea’s murder. …

Chea Vichea’s murder adds to the country’s long and bloody list of those killed with impunity since 1993, including singers, actresses, politicians, journalists, many in cases believed to have been politically motivated and to have had the collusion of government forces, including the 1997 grenade attack that killed about a dozen people and injured more than 100 in front of the former parliament building in Phnom Penh.

Like Chea Vichea, no one has ever been held to account for these crimes.

Khy Sovuthy and Lauren Crothers

Jubilation as Pair Acquitted of Union Leader’s Assassination

September 26th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, the men wrongfully sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 2004 murder of Free Trade Union (FTU) leader Chea Vi­chea, were exonerated Wednesday by the Supreme Court of the crime.

Responding to the acquittal, Chea Vichea’s brother, Chea Mony, said the government was responsible for having orchestrated the killing of his sibling and the ensuing cover up. …

Judge Pon, however, shot down hopes that the men would qualify for any compensation for their years of incarceration, citing Article 23 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and claiming that it could not be proven that the men had suffered any injury because of their wrongful, five-year detention. …

Chea Vichea’s brother Chea Mony, who was elected FTU leader after his brother’s assassination, has always maintained that the two men had been made scapegoats for the murder, saying the decision to free the men means that fresh questions must be asked as to why the real killers have never been arrested, tried or sentenced.

“Ten years ago, the court could not find the real murderers; this is a weakness of the government and the court,” he said.

“I never thought that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were the murderers. This time, the government lost the case, because it is unable to find the real culprits, but the government is behind my brother Chea Vichea’s killing,” he said. …

Mr. Sam Oeun has maintained his innocence from the start. Mr. Samnang initially confessed, but told the Supreme Court in 2008 that the confession had been false, extracted only because he was being beaten by the police who were holding him in custody.

Human rights groups welcomed the decision, but insisted that a thorough investigation needs to be carried out to bring the real killers to justice. …

Moeun Tola, head of the labor program at the Community Legal Ed­ucation Center, said the opening of a fresh investigation into the kill­ing of Chea Vichea would help “combat rampant impunity in the Kingdom.” …

In addition to highly suspect evidence, the case against the pair was choreographed by then-Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, who would go on to become Prime Minister Hun Sen’s security adviser and an undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry. However, Heng Pov is now serving a 100-year prison sentence for a litany of crimes, including the murder of a municipal court judge.

While Heng Pov was on the run from the law and hiding out in Sin­ga­pore he gave an interview with French magazine L’Express in Au­gust 2006 that spectacularly claimed the entire case against Mr. Sam­nang and Mr. Sam Oeun was fabricated by then-National Police Com­mis­sioner Hok Lundy —and that he had ordered the arrests of the men in order to appease an in­creasingly under-pressure government. …

Khy Sovuthy

Rights groups call for release of ‘scapegoats’

September 25th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Rights groups and the United Nations yesterday urged the Supreme Court to drop the case against two men widely believed to have been wrongfully convicted of the slaying of unionist Chea Vichea when it convenes this morning.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were re-arrested in December of last year after spending nearly four years out of prison on provisional release after the Appeal Court issued a shock verdict finding the pair guilty of the 2004 murder. …

After almost five years in prison, Samnang and Sam Oeun were provisionally released in January 2009 by the Supreme Court, which ordered a re-investigation. …

Chhay Channyda

Chea Vichea Murder Case Back in Court

November 7th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

The two men convicted of – and widely believed framed for – the 2004 assassination of union leader Chea Vichea are set to appear at the Appeal Court for their retrial today, nearly four years after the Supreme Court released them and ordered a reinvestigation of the case.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were arrested a week after Chea Vichea was gunned down in Phnom Penh on January 22, 2004. They were convicted later that year amid an outcry over a perceived cover-up in the killing, and sentenced to 20 years in jail each. …

Seng Khunnearie and Khy Sovuthy, P.19