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Former Takeo Governor denies killing mistress

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times Share:
Lay Vannak walks outside the courtroom yesterday. KT/Mai Vireak

Lay Vannak, the disgraced former Takeo provincial governor, yesterday denied any involvement in the murder of his mistress during his trial at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

In April, the court charged Mr Vannak and his brother, former deputy provincial police chief Brigadier General Lay Narith, with murder over the killing of Chev Sovathana, whose death was covered up as a suicide.

The body of Ms Sovathana, a National Assembly official and member of the CPP’s youth wing, was found hanging in her rental home in Daun Keo city on January 26 last year.

Men Samay, Mr Vannak’s driver, and Choeum Vuth, the husband of the victim’s maid, were charged with concealing evidence.

Mr Vannak told the court yesterday that he and the victim first began their affair in 2016 after meeting at a KTV party hosted by provincial customs chief Keo Vanny, noting that the relationship went on for about one year and six months until her death.

He said that on January 26, 2018, the victim argued with him on the phone over women he met the previous night. Mr Vannak said the victim then asked him to meet her at her home.

“She wanted me to love her and she wanted to become my second wife,” he said.

Mr Vannak noted the victim had been requesting to meet him two to three days per week, but told the court he couldn’t because he had a family and a career.

“She accused me of having many women, so I got angry with her,” he said, adding that she held on to him as he was about to leave. “Sovathana then yelled that if I walked out, then I’d never see her again – forever.”

Mr Vannak was later told that same day by Chan Ry, the victim’s maid, that Ms Sovathana had cut her wrist. Mr Vannak said he told Ms Ry to help Ms Sovathana before returning to his home.

He added that Ms Ry then called him again to inform him that Ms Sovathana had hung herself in her room.

Mr Vannak said he then ordered his driver Mr Samay to check out the situation at Ms Sovathana’s house, but by the time he arrived, the victim had already died.

Mr Vannak noted that he wanted to call provincial police chief Major General Sok Samnang, but was unable to because he was in Vietnam. He then called his brother Mr Narith instead.

Before going there himself, he said that he told his driver to take Ms Sovathana’s phone because he did not want photos of his affair to go public

“When I arrived at the scene, I saw Sovathana’s body and I was shocked. I said ‘wake up darling, wake up darling,’” Mr Vannak said. “‘I don’t believe you are dead, I’m here now and I’m alive with you.’”

He then swore to the court that he did not kill his mistress.

“I swear on everything that is sacred in this world to please hear and know that if I killed Sovathana, please take my life, my wife’s life and the lives of my three children,” Mr Vannak said. “I would not have killed her in my own jurisdiction.”

Judge Ham Meangse said after Mr Vannak’s testimony that he will discover the truth.

“I am a judge, so I need to find justice for both the suspects and victim,” Judge Meangse said.

The trial will continue on an unspecified date.

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