Slew of High-Profile Cases Heard at Supreme Court

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Thun Ratha, with Long Kunthea and Phuon Keoreaksmey next to him, speaks to the media after the hearing at the Supreme Court on July 22, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)
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The Supreme Court heard back-to-back appeals from high-profile cases involving Mother Nature activists, a senior unionist and two co-accused, and a group of activists convicted for a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in October 2020. 

The court heard a challenge from three Mother Nature activists – Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea and Phuon Keoreaksmey — who were convicted in May 2021 for incitement for planning a one-woman march to advocate against the filling in of Boeng Tamok in Phnom Penh. They were convicted alongside Mother Nature co-founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson and Chea Kunthin, who was convicted in absentia.

The Appeal Court last year dropped the sentences to 14 months, and the rest of their sentences were suspended, making them eligible for release in November. They were released from prison amid a slew of prison releases involving high-profile cases and prominent activists. 

The three were asking the Supreme Court to overturn their convictions, said their lawyers Ly Sochetra and Sam Chamroeun, because they had not committed incitement. 

Sochetra said the three were only concerned the filling of Boeng Tamok could cause flooding in Phnom Penh and this was not incitement. 

“All these activities were activities to protect the environment. They intend to have a good environment for all people.”

The activists said they had no intention of incitement and wanted to be acquitted of the charges. Ratha said he did not have a “big liver” to incite, a Khmer reference to people who are aggressive and bad.

Kunthea added that their work on environmental issues was only for the benefit of the people and was not ill-intentioned.

The Appeal Court prosecutors also appealed the reduction in sentencing, said Supreme Court prosecutor Pen Sarath. He asked the court to send the case back to the Appeal Court to reconsider the prison sentences. 

Up next, the court heard appeals from prominent unionist Rong Chhun and CNRP activists Sar Kanika and Ton Nimol. All three were absent from court. 

Chhun was convicted for comments he made about Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, suggesting Cambodia was losing land to its neighbor. Ton Nimol and Sar Kanika had protested in support of Chhun and were convicted alongside him. The Appeal Court then reduced their sentences in November last year, allowing them to be released alongside other activists.

However, they were placed on probation for three years. 

Their defense lawyers, Choung Chou Ngy and Sam Sokong, were also absent from court. Supreme Court prosecutor Pen Sarath again asked the court to return the case to the Appeal Court for retrial. 

Lastly, the court heard appeals from a group of land protestors and CNRP activists and supporters who were convicted for participating in a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in 2020. They are Ton Nimol, Lim San, Yoy Srey Mom, Sat Pha, Pai Ren, San Srey Neat, and Hong An.

Last November, the Appeal Court also reduced the sentences of six of them, allowing them to be released, and a seventh defendant, Sat Pha, was already out of prison at the time of the appeal. They are all challenging their convictions.

Again, the defendants and their lawyer, Sam Sokong, were absent and the prosecution asked for a retrial at the Appeal Court.

All verdicts will be announced on July 29. 

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