Two for­mer se­nior of­fi­cials to face mur­der trial this month

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Mech Dara

TWO high-pro­file mur­der cases will be heard at the Ph­nom Penh Mu­nic­i­pal Court this month, deputy court spokesman Suos Vit­hearandy told The Post on Thursday. Busi­ness ty­coon and for­mer se­nior de­fence of­fi­cial Thong Sarath stands ac­cused of or­der­ing the mur­der of a ri­val developer, Ung Meng Cheu, who held the roy­ally be­stowed ti­tle “oknha”, in Ph­nom Penh on Novem­ber 22, 2014. The case will be heard by the court on Jan­uary 15-17.

The trial of for­mer Takeo pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor Lay Van­nak, his brother, for­mer deputy pro­vin­cial po­lice chief Lay Narith, and two of the al­leged ac­com­plices will be heard on Jan­uary 23.

The broth­ers are charged with mur­der­ing a Na­tional As­sem­bly staffer on Jan­uary 26 last year in Takeo prov­ince. He is said to have had an af­fair with the vic­tim.

Vit­hearandy said Sarath and five of his body­guards were charged with the shooting of busi­ness­man Meng Cheu in Chamkar­mon district’s Tuol Svay Prey com­mune.

Gunned down

Meng Cheu was gunned down as he ex­ited his Lexus SUV on Si­hanouk Boule­vard near the Olympic Sta­dium. The busi­ness­man was the chair­man of the Shim­mex Group, a con­glom­er­ate that in­cludes con­struc­tion, jew­ellery and im­port-ex­port com­pa­nies.

Chill­ing closed-cir­cuit tele­vi­sion footage of the slay­ing was posted online at the time of the muder. The sus­pects were de­tained at Prey Sar prison on April 17, 2015.

Sarath, a for­mer ma­jor gen­eral in the Royal Cam­bo­dian Armed Forces and pres­i­dent of Meanchey In­ter­na­tional In­vest­ment – with a va­ri­ety of busi­ness in­ter­ests that in­clude the Borey 999 apart­ment project – faces charges un­der Ar­ti­cles 28 and 200 of the Crim­i­nal Code for al­legedly mas­ter­mind­ing Meng Cheu’s mur­der.

In ad­di­tion, five of Sarath’s body­guards were charged as al­leged ac­com­plices. Seang Veasna, the al­leged gunman, and Ly Sao, the al­leged get­away ve­hi­cle driver, were charged un­der Ar­ti­cle 200. Sao later died in prison un­der sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances.

De­fence lawyer Tuot Lux sug­gested that Sao died as a re­sult of tor­ture dur­ing his in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

“When he was ar­rested on De­cem­ber 3, 2014, his health was well. On De­cem­ber 4, when he was brought to court, he needed help with walk­ing. Later on he was brought to hos­pi­tal and died,” Lux said.

Meas Sam­bath and Kouy Chan­thol, who al­legedly tailed Meng Cheu’s car be­fore the shooting, were charged un­der Ar­ti­cle 29.

Ch­hun Chetra, the fifth body­guard who was ar­rested in Fe­bru­ary 2015, al­legedly of­fered his own mo­tor­bike to Veasna and Sao and was also charged un­der Ar­ti­cle 29.

Min­istry of Jus­tice spokesman Chin Malin said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been time-con­sum­ing due to the com­plex­i­ties of the case.

Sarath’s lawyer, Tuot Lux, could not be reached for com­ment.

On April 3 last year, Ph­nom Penh Mu­nic­i­pal Court in­ves­ti­gat­ing judge Koy Sao de­tained Van­nak and Narin for the mur­der of Chev So­vathana at a rented house in Roka Knong com­mune’s Psar Takor vil­lage in Donkeo district, un­der Ar­ti­cle 199 of the Crim­i­nal Code.

Found hanged

Thirty-six-year-old So­vathana was found hanged in her home in what po­lice orig­i­nally ruled a sui­cide.

So­vathana, who em­ceed events for the Na­tional As­sem­bly, was an ac­tive CPP Youth mem­ber and mother of three, Min­istry of In­te­rior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said at the time.

Choem Vuth, the hus­band of the vic­tim’s maid, and Men Sak­may, Van­nak’s driver, were charged with con­ceal­ing ev­i­dence un­der Ar­ti­cle 532 of the Crim­i­nal Code, which car­ries a prison sen­tence of be­tween one and three years.

Mur­der is pun­ish­able by 10 to 15 years in prison and can carry a life sen­tence if found to be pre­med­i­tated.

PHA LINA

Busi­ness ty­coon Thong Sarath es­corted by of­fi­cials for his ap­pear­ance at the Ph­nom Penh Court in 2015.

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