The Appeal Court on Friday upheld the decision of the Battambang provincial court to sentence an unlicensed medical practitioner to 25 years in prison for infecting almost 300 villagers with HIV via the reuse of unclean needles.
Presiding judge Yet Molin announced the verdict on Friday and said the defendant can still appeal the sentence again.
“The Appeal Court believes the Battambang provincial court’s decision was correct,” Ms Molin said.
In December 2015, Yem Chrin, 58, was sentenced to 25 years in jail for spreading the virus to 300 villagers in Roka commune by reusing syringes on multiple patients.
He was convicted of torture and cruel behaviour resulting in death, intentionally spreading HIV and practising medicine without a licence.
At that time, the provincial court handed him $1,250 in fines.
Mr Chrin was also ordered to pay compensation to 107 victims, ranging from about $12.50 to about $3,000, and banned from ever practising medicine in the future.
Ouk Vandeth, Mr Chrin’s lawyer, said he had done his best to defend his client but the verdict was at the court’s discretion.
“It is a serious sentence,” Mr Vandeth said, adding that he had not yet met with his client to discuss the outcome.
Speaking during his Appeal Court trial on August 17, Mr Chrin said he never intended to spread the virus to people, pleading for the judges to reduce his sentence to only 10 years in jail.
“Sometimes, I reused syringes on multiple patients, but I did not intend to infect villagers and I regret what happened. I never imagined that it would happen,” he said.
Buddhism for Development officials, who work with HIV-infected villagers in the area, said at least 25 deaths have been linked to Mr Chrin’s case.
Earlier this year, two more people were found to have HIV in the area, and both said they had used the services of local unlicensed doctors.
Chrin Tola, 25, Mr Chrin’s daughter, said her father is a good man who never meant to hurt anyone.
“This is an injustice for my father and my family because since he was imprisoned, we have faced many difficulties,” she said. “We will appeal again but we are not sure when yet.”
Loeum Lorm, 54, a volunteer with Buddhism for Development and a representative of victims who joined the appeal trial, welcomed the court’s decision.
Mr Lorm added that those living with HIV in the area need continuing support.
“I want to ask the government to keep helping Roka commune villagers because those who contracted HIV have no jobs,” he said. “Please create jobs because the villagers cannot go outside to work like normal people.”
Health Minister Mam Bun Heng yesterday said by phone that the government and local authorities had not forgotten the people of Roka commune.
“The government and local authorities are still taking care of them. We have constructed new roads there and expanded Roka commune health centre,” Mr Bun Heng said. “Public services for the people in the area are now better than before.”
Mr Bun Heng declined to comment on the Appeal Court verdict. Appeal Court prosecutor Sa Kanharith could not be reached for comment.