Five Years After Fatal Shooting, Military Police Officer Makes Final Appeal

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Police officers stand guard at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, November 16, 2017. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

A former military police officer who is in prison over a fatal shooting at a Phnom Penh mini-mart asked the Supreme Court to reduce his sentence as his lawyer argued he was remorseful and the killing had been unintentional.

In May 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Phon Pheakdey, at that time a Daun Penh district military police officer, to seven years in jail for intentional violence with aggravating circumstance resulting in the death of a victim, according to a document read out by a consulting judge on Wednesday.

The judge said two other men, Khieu Thornvandy and Nin Rin, were sentenced to two years each for intentional violence and carrying weapons without authorization.

In March 2021, the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh upheld the earlier decision, but Pheakdey appealed to the Supreme Court.

Under questioning by presiding judge Chiv Keng on Wednesday about the reason he appealed, Pheakdey, 32, told the court that he accepted his guilt and wanted to ask for a reduction of his sentence.

Defense lawyer Ly Chheng said his client was a military police officer who had received a complaint from a restaurant owner that a gang was causing disturbance nearby.

Based on surveillance camera footage, his client tried to get close to another of the sentenced men, Thornvandy, to take him in for questioning, the lawyer said. The shooting victim then jumped in holding two sticks and beat his client, which led to the shooting, Chheng said.

“My client pleaded guilty already but that was unintentional. He also has remorse,” he said, asking for mitigation so Pheakdey “can rebuild himself again.”

Supreme Court deputy prosecutor-general Ouk Kimsith pointed out that Pheakdey’s seven-year sentence was already the minimum for the charge.

“The accused was not in a situation where he needed to use the gun. It was intentional,” Kimsith said.

The victim, Seun Chandarath, was killed in front of a riverside mini-mart at 9 p.m. on Saturday, August 13, 2016, after Thornvandy, one of his drinking companions, stepped away to get food and returned pursued by four assailants, the National Police website reported at the time. Chandarath intervened and was shot in the ensuing scuffle, it said.

However, the Koh Santepheap and Nokorwat News Daily newspapers reported that the argument at the mini-mart started after Pheakdey went there to confront Thornvandy over an earlier complaint from a bar owner next door about six men causing a disturbance.

A Supreme Court decision is expected on January 12.

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