Disgraced governor set to stand trial

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Police arrest former Takeo Governor Lay Vannak in April last year. Fresh News

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has set a trial date for former Takeo provincial Governor Lay Vannak and his brother, a former deputy provincial police chief, over the murder of the former’s mistress.

Court spokesman Suos Vithyearandy yesterday said Mr Vannak and his brother Lay Narith will both stand trial on January 23.

Both men were jailed in April last year after the apparent suicide of CPP youth group member Chev Sovathana, who was also a National Assembly staffer, was re-investigated and deemed a murder covered up by the duo.

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Mr Vannak, who was a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, had his membership stripped soon after his arrest.

Ms Sovathana was found dead by her maid in her rented home in Daun Keo city on January 26, 2018.

Police initially closed the case as a suicide, but spurred by unavoidable evidence and complaints from the family, reopened it and discovered a murderous plot to kill Ms Sovathana.

The court has also charged Men Samay, Mr Vannak’s driver, and Choem Vuth, the maid’s husband, for concealing evidence.

If convicted, Mr Vannak and Mr Narith could face up to 15 years in prison, while Mr Vuth and Mr Samay could face up to three years in prison.

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Chev Sovathana’s murder was covered up as a suicide. Fresh News

Tep Panha, Mr Narith’s lawyer, yesterday said he is prepared for the trial.

“I will be there to defend my client,” he said.

Rous Phalla, Mr Vannak’s lawyer, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In January, police said after the murder 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, along with evidence to back them up on why the case could not be a suicide.

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A resulting police investigation snared Mr Vannak and his brother, along with their accomplices.

As the scandalous case developed, the ruling CPP was quick to distance itself from the former governor.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said after Mr Vannak was stripped of his CPP membership that the decision was made because the party could not tolerate the scandal.

“When someone has committed a serious offence and is charged by the court, we have to remove him from our party,” Mr Eysan said. “We cannot let the acts of a single person affect the reputation of the party.”

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