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Health fear disrupts tycoon’s murder trial

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea / Khmer Times Share:
Mr Sarath’s bodyguard is also behind bars. KT/Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Tycoon Thong Sarath spent just half an hour at his murder trial yesterday before he was sent back to hospital with heart problems and high blood pressure.

Mr Sarath, a former two-star general with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and five bodyguards are accused of the murder of fellow tycoon Ung Meng Chue in 2014.

Mr Sarath was brought to Phnom Penh Municipal Court in an ambulance from Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh.

He sat in a wheelchair in court and complained loudly, urging the court to speed up his trial.

Mr Sarath, owner of the Meanchey International Investment Company and Borey 999 apartment, told the court he was innocent, but has been held in prison without trial for more than four years.

He said that since he was arrested and jailed in 2015, he has been living with high-blood pressure and a heart attack, and would die in prison if the court delayed his trial.

“I have waited to answer the questions of the prosecutor and the judges for four years,” he told the court yesterday.

Presiding judge Top Chhun Heng ordered that he be sent back to the hospital by ambulance.

According to court documents, six people were involved in the case.

They were: Mr Sarath, 41, and his bodyguards Seang Veasna, 45, Ly Sao also known as Vy, 43, who died in 2016, Meas Sambath, 28, Kouy Chanthol, 30, and Chhun Pheaktra, 48.

Mr Sarath is charged with initiating premeditated murder while Mr Veasna and Mr Sao are charged with premeditated murder.

Mr Chanthol, Mr Sambath and Mr Pheaktra were charged with being an accomplice to premeditated murder. All face a life sentence if convicted.

After Mr Sarath was sent back to hospital, the judges questioned Mr Sambath and Mr Pheaktra.

Mr Sambath said that on the day of Mr Meng Cheu’s murder, November 22, 2014, he Mr Chanthol, Mr Sao, a man named Tuy who was the nephew of Mr Sarath, and Mr Sarath, worked and stayed at Borey 999 in Meanchey district.

Mr Sambath said they all stayed there from 7am until nearly 7pm.

He said Mr Sao left the apartment at about 6.30pm.

The victim was shot dead outside a fruit store in Chamkar Mon district that evening at 7.10pm.

Mr Sambath said Mr Veasna did not come to work at Borey 999 that day. Mr Sambath said he had no connection with Mr Meng Cheu’s murder.

“I don’t know who killed the victim,” he told the court.

“I had never known or met him. I knew about him after he was murdered. I have seen his photos on Facebook and TV.”

Mr Pheaktra also denied the allegations, saying he was at home in Chbar Ampov district when the victim was killed.

“I don’t know anything about this case,” he said.

Heang Makara, the lawyer for Mr Meng Cheu’s widow Kim Chheng, said his client is demanding $50 million from Mr Sarath and another $10 million from the person who shot her husband.

The trial will continue on March 5.

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