The Appeal Court on Wednesday upheld former CNRP commune chief Chao Veasna’s five-year sentence for his involvement in a violent protest in 2015 that saw six vehicles belonging to customs officers set on fire in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town.
Judge Nhong Thol read the court’s ruling dismissing Veasna’s claim that he was at the protest merely in his capacity as a local official and was not involved as accused.
“The facts indicate that on the day of the incident, Veasna shouted to protesters that Mao Sun [a protester arrested by Military Police] had been killed. Veasna shouted: ‘Why did you kill my people?’” Thol said.
This incited the protesters, who stormed the customs office, destroying property and burning six cars. The customs officials as complainants claimed they took video clips and photos of Veasna at the scene from the beginning until the end of the violence, Thol said.
“In accordance with the facts and witness testimony, the Appeal Court agrees with the verdict of the Banteay Meanchey provincial court that Chao Veasna did incite the protesters to violence and its sentence of five years in prison is upheld.
“If the appellant is not satisfied with the ruling, he has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court within one month from the date of the verdict being announced,” Thol said.
Veasna’s defence lawyer Choung Choungy could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
On June 7, last year, Veasna and seven others were charged with “intentional destruction of public property and aggravated circumstances”, based on Articles 28, 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code.
Two others charged with them were acquitted.
According to the court report on May 25, 2015, Veasna joined a group of porters who staged a protest in front of the Poipet Customs Department building.
The porters demanded that officers at the Poipet border checkpoint stop demanding 70 baht ($2.20) for each cart. They also called for a face-to-face meeting with the department’s officials.
At around 10am, some porters started overturning their carts, blocking the road and burning car tyres.
The protest continued until noon, when a group of porters stormed into the customs building, destroying public property and setting six vehicles belonging to customs officials on fire.