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Witness changes story in murder case of disgraced Takeo governor

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Lay Vannak arrives at the court for trial. KT/Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

A witness in the murder case of former Takeo provincial governor Lay Vannak and his brother changed her story yesterday when she testified at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Mr Vannak and Lay Narith, a former deputy provincial police chief, are accused of murdering Mr Vannak’s former mistress, Chev Sovathana.

Chan Ry, the mistress’ maid, was the main witness when the trial resumed yesterday.

Ms Ry rejected the answers she gave at the National Police’s penal department. She told the court police forced her to say Mr Vannak and Mr Narith killed Ms Sovathana.

The court clerk read an answer Ms Ry gave police officials. It said that on January 26 last year, Mr Vannak and Mr Narith came into Ms Sovathana’s room at 7.30pm.

Later, Mr Vannak came out and said Ms Sovathana had died and he ordered them to prepare her body by hanging her on the window.

Mr Narith told them that when police asked they had to say she committed suicide.

“I disagreed with these answers because they did not enter her room,” Ms Ry told the court. “Police put on pressure to hurt my family and my son if I did not follow them.”

“They are not involved in killing Ms Sovathana,” Ms Ry said.

Major General Pol Ratana, deputy chief of the penal department, told the court that officers didn’t pressure or force the witness to say what she had said.

“Police never pressured or tortured her during the questioning. What she was saying seriously affects the honour of our police,” Maj Gen Ratana said.

However, Ms Ry agreed that her answer at the provincial police stated that about 7.30pm Ms Sovathana’s face looked very sad and then she went upstairs to sleep in her room.

Ms Ry told police: “After 30 minutes I took water to give to her but I couldn’t enter because she locked the door.

“I shouted but she didn’t answer. I walked on the balcony and looked through the window and saw she committed suicide by hanging.”

The court played a video clip of Mr Vannak’s driver Men Samay, Ms Chan Ry and her husband Chim Vuth at the police department. They said both Mr Vannak and Mr Narith ordered the management of Ms Sovathana’s death to look like suicide.

“I just followed their order because we are subordinates,” Mr Samay said in the clip.

Mr Vannak and Mr Narith were detained in April last year after the apparent suicide of CPP youth group member Ms Sovathana, who was also a National Assembly staffer, was re-investigated and deemed a murder covered up by the duo.

Mr Vannak was stripped of his CPP membership soon after his arrest.

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

The court has also charged Mr Samay and Mr Vuth with concealing evidence.

The court said the hearing would continue later because more than 30 witnesses needed to testify.

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