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Police: Ex-governor’s lover was murdered

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times Share:
Former Takeo provincial governor Lay Vannak is escorted by police at the municipal court, where he was questioned over the murder of his mistress Chev Sovathana. TVFB

A driver for former Takeo provincial governor Lay Vannak, who is being questioned at the municipal court, has claimed Mr Vannak killed his mistress and ordered him to cover it up as an apparent suicide, an Interior Ministry spokesman said yesterday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that Men Samay, a driver for Mr Vannak, told police prior to his first court appearance that Mr Vannak killed his mistress Chev Sovathana and then asked him to cover it up as a suicide.

“His driver said that Mr Vannak is involved with this case,” Mr Sopheak said. “Mr Vannak ordered him to organise the body.”

The driver who confessed to police about the murder. KT/ Mai Vireak

“This is a murder case; it is not a suicide case,” Mr Sopheak added.

Mr Vannak, who was arrested over the death of Ms Sovathana on Sunday and was being questioned at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, was stripped of his role as the province’s governor following the apparent suicide Ms Sovathana, who was found by her maid hanging dead 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 as a murder case.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophanna said yesterday that Mr Vannak was questioned at the court and then sent back to the Interior Ministry, and is due to be questioned at the court again today.

Lay Narith, second right, at the municipal court. KT/Mai Vireak

“The prosecutor has been questioning Mr Vannak and five other suspects and is reviewing documents and evidence in the case,” he said.

The other five suspects include deputy provincial police chief Lay Narith, who is Mr Vannak’s older brother, Chan Ry, the maid who found the body, Choem Vuth, the maid’s husband, Mr Samay, Mr Vannak’s driver, and Tak Ratana, a driver for Mr Narith.

All five are accused of covering up the murder of Ms Sovathana, a National Assembly staffer and member of the CPP’s youth group, according to National Police chief General Neth Savoeun.

Before his arrest on Sunday, Mr Vannak 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, adding that she likely committed suicide because he wanted to end their relationship, while 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. Deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok, who is in charge of the case, declined to comment yesterday.

Mr Vannak’s wife Sou Socheata, a deputy prosecutor with Kandal Provincial Court, declined to comment when reached by phone yesterday.

Ms Socheata’s father Sou Phirin, a secretary of state with the Council of Ministers, also declined to comment.

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