Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday questioned the chief bodyguard of tycoon Thong Sarath over the murder of Ung Meng Chue on the night of November 22, 2014 outside a fruitshop in Chamkar Mon district.
Mr Sarath did not attend the hearing yesterday due to health issues, but the court questioned his chief bodyguard Seang Veasna.
Mr Sarath and his bodyguards Mr Veasna, Ly Sao, Meas Sambath, Kouy Chanthol, and Chhun Pheaktra are accused of being involved in the murder.
Mr Sarath was charged with initiating premeditated murder, while Mr Veasna and Mr Sao, who died of AIDS in 2016, were 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.
During yesterday’s trial, Mr Veasna told the court that he became Mr Sarath’s bodyguard in 2006 and received $220 per month after being in the military.
He said that on the day of the murder, he was not in Phnom Penh because he was with his wife and sick mother-in-law in Kampong Chhnang province. He said he only returned to Phnom Penh at about 8.30pm on November 22, 2014. The murder occurred at 7.10pm.
“I was not involved in the murder of tycoon Meng Chue,” Mr Veasna said. “I have never met him and I only heard about him after he was murdered. I saw his picture on TV.”
“I do not know who killed him. There’s footage of the person who shot him, and that person is not me,” he added. “However, police beat me and tortured me to confess.”
A court clerk said Mr Veasna confessed to killing Mr Meng Chue when he was interrogated by police on December 2, 2014.
The clerk said Mr Veasna confessed to being hired by Mr Sarath to make the kill in exchange for an apartment and some money.
“After I killed the victim, I met with tycoon Thong Sarath in his apartment at 8pm on November 22, 2014,” the clerk read. “I then gave the gun I used to Thong Sarath.”
Upon hearing his own statement read by the clerk, Mr Veasna requested the court to annul the statement.
The court was shown security camera footage of Mr Sarath’s apartment on the day of the murder, which did not include footage of Mr Veasna or Mr Sao.
Last month, Mr Sambath told the court that on the day of the murder he was working late at the Borey 999 apartment with Mr Chanthol, Mr Sao, Mr Sarath and Mr Sarath’s newphew who only goes by the name “Tuy”.
He said that they all worked at about 7am for about 12 hours that day, noting that Mr Veasna did not show up for work.
Heang Makara, the lawyer for Mr Meng Chue’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 is expected to continue on Thursday.