A Cambodian tycoon whose violent beating of a female television star last year was captured on video will be free in a matter of months after a court suspended much of his prison sentence for the assault.
In a case that has put the spotlight on how the Southeast Asian nation’s judicial system deals with violence against women and how it handles cases involving the wealthy, real estate magnate Sok Bun was given a sentence of three years in prison and fined about $1,500, but will be free within three months, the Cambodia Daily reports.
The prison sentence was reduced to only 10 months, seemingly because Sok Bun reached an out-of-court settlement with the victim, Ek Socheata. Sok Bun has already served nearly eight months in jail, but has reportedly spent much of that time in hospital being treated for multiple ailments, including “stress-induced insomnia.”
Women’s-rights activists complained that the court should have given Sok Bun a hasher sentence for the attack as a signal that violence against women would not be tolerated. Closed-circuit television showed the 38-year-old punching and kicking the diminutive former host known as Sasa in the face and dragging her by the hair at a Phnom Penh nightclub.
“The system is biased against women. It’s not just Sasa alone who receives this kind of treatment and violence,” Thida Khus, an NGO director, told the Cambodia Daily. “Maybe people in the system have sympathy for him.”
The Phnom Penh Post said the victim had received about $100,000 in “compensation” and later said she wanted to the drop the charges against Sok Bun.
In Cambodia’s courts, cash payments to victims can often make a case go away, meaning that the country’s elites have practical impunity. This case appeared to be taken seriously, however, after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly warned Sok Bun — who previously held the honorary title Oknha, which is reserved for politically connected businessmen — that he must face justice.
“At least he experienced being in jail, even if for only 10 days. At least a tycoon went to jail,” the victim’s father Uth Thy told the Phnom Penh Post.