A Cambodian court on Friday sentenced two men to life in prison for causing the death of a Canadian boy during an armed siege of an international school near the country's famed Angkor temples. Four other men received 20-year sentences for their involvement in the six-hour standoff on June 16 on the Siem Reap International School. Two others, former members of the Cambodian military police, were sentenced to two years.
In the one-day trial, the court ruled that Chea Sokhom was the ringleader of the attack, and he and a companion were sentenced to life in prison on charges of premeditated murder, kidnapping, illegal use of weapons and illegal detainment of persons for ransom. Chea Sokhom denied killing the boy, saying he died from a bullet fired from outside the school.
"I held him (the boy) in my hands, but I did not shoot to kill him. He was shot dead in the head by an AK-47 bullet fired from outside," said Chea Sokhom, believed to be in his early 20s. The boy "died a short moment later," he told the court.
Judge Plang Chlam challenged his testimony, pointing out that he had already confessed to police that he killed the boy. Chea Sokhom claimed police had threatened to beat him if he refused to confess. He did not say who he thought fired the bullet. Cambodian security forces were surrounding the school at the time.
Maxim Michalik, a boy born in Canada to Slovakian parents, was fatally shot during the standoff between authorities and the would-be hostage takers, who had demanded money and weapons in exchange for the children's release. The slain boy's father, Martin Michalik, said during testimony that his son was 3 years old. He declined to speak to reporters who asked for his comments about the verdict. A diplomat from the Canadian Embassy in Cambodia also attended the trial. The boy's family had been living in Siem Reap, a bustling Cambodian tourist town near Angkor Wat and other ancient temples, where his father worked at a hotel. The toddler's body was buried in Slovakia.
Chea Sokhom said he was carrying a handgun when he and three companions armed with knives stormed the school. Two other defendants, a man who helped buy the gun used in the raid, and a private security guard who heard Chea Sokhom discuss the planned raid, were convicted of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, kidnapping, illegal detainment of persons for ransom, and illegal use of weapons, reports the AP. N.U.