PHNOM PENH • A Cambodian court yesterday jailed for a year three bo- dyguards of Prime Minister Hun Sen for attacking two opposition politicians during a march by government supporters, but the opposition decried the punishment as too lenient.
Since the beatings outside Parliament last year, tension has risen amid acrimonious exchanges between Mr Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which are eyeing a general election in 2018.
Judge Heng Sokna of the municipal court in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, suspended three years of the four-year terms handed to the men, taking into account their confessions over the attack and cooperation with the authorities. The men, Sot Vanny, Chay Sarit and Mao Hoeun, admitted in court that they are Mr Hun Sen's bodyguards.
But the CNRP was unhappy with the outcome. "This verdict is not acceptable, and our legal team will discuss further whether to appeal," CNRP lawyer Sam Sokong said. "This was a brutal attack."
In a report on the beatings, New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Cambodia of a cover-up and called for a United Nations-assisted independent investigation to identify the planners and perpetrators.
More than two years ahead of the elections, the opposition is on the back foot as its top politicians face a battery of legal charges that they say are politically motivated.
CNRP leader Sam Rainsy has been in exile since late last year to avoid jail on charges for which he had previously received a royal pardon.
His deputy Kem Sokha was cited yesterday for contempt of court after failing to appear on Thursday to hear charges for procurement of prostitution over a leaked recording of telephone conversation he purportedly had with a woman.
Mr Sokha's lawyer, Mr Sokong, dismissed the charge as baseless and said his client had reasonable grounds not to appear in court.