The Military Court yesterday convicted and sentenced two former soldiers to 16 years in prison each for recruiting nearly 250 soldiers without orders or authorisation from the Ministry of Defence and the government between 2016 and last year.
Presiding Judge Pauk Porn identified them as Sok Bunsoeun, 64, a former major general and deputy chief of the General Technical Department in the Ministry of Defence, and Rath Chanmony, a former captain in the Third Military Regiment based in Kampong Chhnang province’s Samakki Meanchey district.
He said that they were charged with “unlawful raising of armed forces” under Article 463 of the Criminal Code.
“During their trial on April 28, the two accused confessed that they had recruited [soldiers] without the orders and authorisation from the Ministry of Defence or the Royal Government of Cambodia in order to make money from victims for their personal use,” Judge Porn said.
“Their activities have violated the laws and affected the reputation of the ministry and the government. It has also affected security, public order and the honour of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces”, he added.
“Therefore, the military court has decided to convict and sentence both of them to 16 years in prison each,” he added.
Judge Porn said the names of both convicts have been deleted from the armed forces’ personnel files.
He said Bunsoeun was arrested by national military police on April 25 last year in Phnom Penh while Chanmony was arrested in Kampong Chhnang province.
Judge Porn said the duo was apprehended by military police for allegedly recruiting 244 people and cheating them out of more than $100,000 as payment in exchange for getting them jobs as soldiers in the Defence Ministry.
The arrests were made following the victims’ complaints when they could not secure the jobs as promised.
Deputy prosecutor Men Hong said that in 2016, Bunsoeun and Chanmony advertised job openings for soldiers in the First Military Region based in Kampong Chhnang province.
He said both persuaded people to sign up and took commission of between $1,700 and $ 6,000 each in exchange for securing the jobs.
Mr Hong said that after receiving the payment from the victims, they later provided them with army uniforms, fake IDs and fake insignia denoting rank.
He said the two accused also paid the victims’ salaries according to their fake positions.
“At the end of each month or early the following month, they paid the victims salaries by using some of the returns from investments on the money they had collected in exchange for providing the fake jobs,” Mr Hong said.
He said in January last year Bunsoeun and Chanmony ran out of money and could not pay the salaries.
Mr Hong said on April 24 last year, six representatives of the 244 victims alerted Lieutenant General Hun Manet, Deputy Commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, when he visited the First Military Region in Kampong Chhnang province.
The following day, the two accused were arrested in Phnom Penh by the national military police. After their arrest, military police seized several forged documents, including those containing details of the victims and their ranks.
Mr Hong noted that between 2016 and 2018, Bunsoeun and Chanmony raised a total of 244 illegal soldiers and received more than $100,000 from them.
Bunsoeun said yesterday outside the courtroom that he will consult with his family and a lawyer about appealing his sentence at the Appeal Court.
“I am old and suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure,” he said.
During their trial on April 28, Bunsoeun and Chanmony admitted committing the offence, saying that they raised the armed forces to earn money for their personal use.
They said they did not have any intention to commit any illegal act against the government and asked the military court to give them a light sentence.
Bunsoeun said that he began raising the armed forces in 2016 and up to 2018 from which he earned more than $100,000 which he split equally with Chanmony.
“I knew this act was illegal and violated the law but it was an easy way to make money,” he told the military court.
Chanmony also acknowledged his mistake.
“I committed the offence because I was greedy and I knew I could earn a lot of money from the scam. I regret my mistake,” he told the military court.