Former Takeo provincial governor Lay Vannak was arrested yesterday in Takeo province and transferred to the Interior Ministry for questioning over the death of a National Assembly staffer and member of the CPP’s youth group with whom he was having an affair.
National Police chief General Neth Savoeun said yesterday that Mr Vannak was apprehended yesterday afternoon in Takeo province after he joined a position transferring ceremony.
He was earlier stripped of his role as the province’s governor following the apparent suicide of his mistress Chev Sovathana, who was found by her maid hanging in her rental room in Daun Keo city on January 26.
After the discovery, Daun Keo city police and local media reported the case as a suicide, but it is now being re-investigated.
Gen Savoeun said last week that about seven or eight Takeo provincial police officials, including deputy provincial police chief Lay Narith – Mr Vannak’s older brother – were being questioned by National Police over the case.
Gen Savoeun said yesterday that five suspects have so far been forwarded to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for further questioning, including Mr Narith, Chan Ry, the maid who found the body, Choem Vuth, the maid’s husband, Men Samay, a driver for Mr Vannak, and Tak Ratana, a driver for Mr Narith.
All five are accused of covering up her death, he said.
Gen Savoeun added that Mr Vannak was formally arrested based on a court warrant following the ceremony yesterday.
“Mr Vannak was arrested for questioning based on the implementation of the prosecutor’s arrest warrant,” Gen Savoeun said.
According to the arrest warrant issued yesterday by Sieng Sok, deputy Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor, Mr Vannak must appear at the Interior Ministry’s Penal Department before April 20 for questioning over the case.
Sok Samnang, Takeo provincial police chief, and his deputy Suon Phon declined to comment.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told local media on Saturday that according to an investigation, Mr Vannak was implicated in the death of Ms Sovathana.
Before his arrest, Mr Vannak flatly denied that he and Mr Narith were involved in the death of Ms Sovathana, but admitted that he had an affair with her more than one year ago.
“I did not kill her,” Mr Vannak said when reached by phone prior to his arrest.
Mr Vannak added that she likely committed suicide because he wanted to end their relationship, but she wanted to become his second wife.
“I would not dare to kill her and sacrifice five lives, including my life, my wife’s life and my three children’s lives,” Mr Vannak said.
Daun Keo city police chief Chhay Savuth said in January that Ms Sovathana had killed herself, noting that officers suspected she was involved in a love affair based upon a letter found by her body.
After her funeral, the victim’s family raised concerns that the case may not have been a suicide and local news reports published their claims.
The reports said that no chair was found by the body, meaning it would have been impossible for her to hang herself, and added that her hand was found locked into the rope’s knots, apparently from a struggle to free herself.
The reports also said that fingerprints were found on the body and that the case was likely murder motivated by a love triangle.