‘Do Not Ask,’ Official Says Of Promoted Bodyguards

A Defense Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday that reporters had no right to ask why two of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguards, convicted of savagely beating a pair of opposition lawmakers in October last year, were promoted last month to the rank of colonel.

“This issue of the government promoting them is that they have seen their individual qualities,” Chhum Socheat said.

When asked what those qualities were, Mr. Socheat said: “Do not ask. I will not answer. It is an issue for the Ministry of Defense; you do not have the right to ask about it.”

He declined further comment.

Mao Hoeun, 34, and Suth Vanny, 45, were among three of Hun Sen’s bodyguards sentenced to four years in prison earlier this year after being tried for their role in attacking CNRP lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea.

The beating, which occurred after the lawmakers were dragged from their cars as they drove by an anti-CNRP rally outside the National Assembly, left them with broken bones and teeth and a ruptured eardrum.

The three bodyguards were released on November 4 after serving less than a year of their sentence.

In a sub-decree signed by Mr. Hun Sen less than two weeks after their release and seen by reporters this week, Mr. Hoeun and Mr. Vanny, just a month out of prison, were promoted from lieutenant colonels to colonels in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

It is unclear if the two will remain in Mr. Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit.

Mr. Saphea said on Wednesday that justice would remain elusive until the CNRP won the 2018 elections.

“I think this is the culture of impunity of the ruling party as well as the government. They always promote people who commit offenses against lawmakers,” he said. “That is the same—the same culture.”

“I am not angry at those who committed the offense,” he added. “But I do not feel warm toward those behind them, who have created a culture encouraging these perpetrators.”

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