Ex-Khmer Rouge Commander Appeals Murder Conviction


2003-12-19
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Chhouk Rin, right

PHNOM PENH�The lawyer for a former Khmer Rouge commander is again appealing his client�s life sentence for ordering an ambush and the murder of three Western backpackers on July 26, 1994, RFA reports.

�I sent a formal letter of complaint to the Supreme Court a few days ago in order to reject a decision of its Appeal Court on Nov. 5, which sentenced Chhouk Rin to life in jail,� Put Theavy, lawyer for Chhouk Rin, told RFA�s Khmer service in an interview. �I demanded the Supreme Court review the Appeal Court�s retrial and decision.�

�I complained that Cambodia formally outlawed the Khmer Rouge on July 7, 1994 by offering six months of defection to the government without punishment. Chhouk Rin defected from the Khmer Rouge on July 15, 1994 under this offer, so why is he being punished? The law is useless,� Put Theavy said.

Chhouk Rin, 50, was sentenced Sept. 6, 2002 to life in prison for ordering a group of Khmer soldiers to ambush a train in southern Kam Pot Province and holding several Western tourists for ransom before killing them. His lawyer submitted an appeal with the Supreme Court�s Appeals Court, which upheld the life sentence on Nov. 5 of this year. Now a second round of appeals is under way�Chhouk Rin�s lawyer was given 60 days to appeal the sentencing by filing a formal complaint with the Cambodian Supreme Court.

�To review his appeal is up to the Supreme Court,� Sam Reth Sophal, the Appeals Court judge who upheld Chhouk Rin�s sentence, told RFA.

On July 26, 1994, the three backpackers�David Welson of Australia, Mark Slater of Britain, and Jean Michael Braquet of France�and as many as 14 Cambodians were ambushed and held for ransom by Khmer Rouge soldiers while on a train traveling through Phnom Vor Mountain in southern Cambodia. When the ransom demands were rejected, the soldiers killed all three tourists and the 14 Cambodians were either killed or injured.

�I asked my lawyer to fight this sentence with the Supreme Court. I don�t accept this life sentence. It is an injustice to me,� Chhouk Rin told RFA by telephone from his home near Phnom Vor Mountain. He also told RFA his health is very poor now and his wife is seriously ill.

Chhouk Rin has served in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces since his integration with the Cambodian government in 1994. In response to unconfirmed reports that his post will be dissolved should his sentence be upheld, he said �I will be happy to stop working for the Defense Ministry because I am incompetent to serve under it now.�

Two other former Khmer Rouge commanders Nuon Pet and Sam Bith are serving their life sentences for the killing of the three Western tourists.

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