Nguon Satya’s breakfast hours were once spent at a noodle restaurant near the Defence Ministry, where, sporting two general’s stars on his shoulders, he would meet potential recruits for his “Special Intelligence Department”, which he told applicants was headed by the prime minister’s eldest son and Anti-Terror Unit Chief Hun Manet.
Yesterday, however, the 39-year-old military officer spent the morning at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where he was accused of forging public documents, misusing a military uniform, illegally carrying a weapon and defrauding the “recruits” to the tune of $17,000.
As the prosecutor explained at the hearing, Satya was a major, not a major general, and the “Special Intelligence Unit” for which Satya handed out job application forms did not exist.
Satya, who reportedly worked as a deputy chief in Military Region 4’s messenger unit, yesterday confessed to misrepresenting himself as a two-star general who was a deputy to Hun Manet in a unit he had concocted himself.
The Siem Reap native said he recruited more than 20 people last year to the unit, with each paying between $600 and $3,000 to join.
“I did it alone. I got a stamp from a military officer and a stamp of my name, which I made for $5 at Phsar Teuk Thla,” Satya said, referring to a market that sells military gear.
“For a gun, I bought it from a military police officer, but I forgot his name.”
During questioning, Satya, who was arrested by Phnom Penh Military Police in December, said he would meet people at the noodle restaurant near the Defence Ministry, where he told customers he was Manet’s deputy chief.
The court was read a statement from victim Khun Makara, who was at the restaurant when she overheard Satya’s call to arms.
“I applied through him and after waiting . . . I decided to give him $600 to speed it up,” said Makara, who received a refund after withdrawing her application.
In his defence, Satya said he did not ask for cash but people were “willing” to pay, and added that the money went to buy rice for poor people.
Judge Svay Tonh set August 15 for a verdict.