Commune Chief Gets Life for Fatal Grenade Attack

A former commune chief in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district, who confessed to ordering the assassination of a political rival, leading to a grenade attack that killed his target’s 11-year-old son, was on Thursday sentenced to life in prison.

Phy Nop, 47, the former chief of Kouk Roka commune, asked Pov Bunthoeun, 33, to arrange the murder of Sorn Sin, a realtor and commune councilor, because he believed that Mr. Sin was angling for his position and wanted to kill him.

Former Kouk Roka commune chief Phy Nop leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday after being sentenced to life in prison. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Former Kouk Roka commune chief Phy Nop leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday after being sentenced to life in prison. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

On October 9, Mr. Sin was eating dinner outside his home with relatives and friends when two men drove past on a motorbike and lobbed a grenade at them, killing his son.

On Thursday, Presiding Judge Leang Samnath announced in court that both Mr. Nop and Mr. Bunthoeun had been convicted of instigating premeditated murder, but would receive very different prison sentences.

“The court sentences Pov Bunthoeun, 33, to 30 years in prison and Phy Nop…to life in prison,” he said.

Nuon Samrith, 28, who lobbed the grenade, was also sentenced to life in prison, while Eng Polin, also 28, who drove the motorbike, was handed a 30-year term. Both were convicted of premeditated murder.

Judge Samnath said that the sentences were reached after “thorough consideration” but did not explain the differing sentences.

During his trial earlier this month, Mr. Nop admitted to asking Mr. Bunthoeun to arrange his rival’s murder, but claimed that he had a change of heart and called off the hit.

After Thursday’s sentencing, Mr. Nop shifted blame onto Mr. Bunthoeun, who he accused during the trial of carrying out the hit against his orders because he wanted to earn the promised $10,000, to be shared with the two attackers.

“I will appeal,” Mr. Nop said outside the courtroom. “It is unjust for me and I do not accept it. This case is based only on the testimony of Pov Bunthoeun, who put the blame on me.”

During the trial, Mr. Samrith said that he and Mr. Polin followed through with the attack because they feared for their own lives.

“[Mr. Bunthoeun] told me that if I didn’t do it, someone would kill me,” Mr. Samrith said at the time. “He said that if we didn’t do it, they would harm our families.”

Mr. Nop’s defense lawyer, Tep Mony Cheath, said his client’s sentence was too harsh, and failed to take into account his attempt to call off the assassination.

“He was angry and had this idea,” he said. “But later, he asked to stop it. He asked to stop it, that means he became aware [that it was wrong].”

“We will not ask for his freedom,” he added. “We will ask for 20 or 30 years, based on extenuating circumstances, and not his whole life.”

Mr. Sin, who attended Thursday’s hearing, said he would have preferred to see Mr. Nop sentenced to death.

“My loss is more than this,” he said, referring to the life sentence.

“The loss of my son, nothing can change that,” he added. “If there was a sentence to hang him, I would let them hang him.”

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