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Lay Vannak murder trial concludes

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea / Khmer Times Share:
Former Takeo provincial Governor Lay Vannak arrives at court yesterday. KT/Pann Rachana

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday concluded the trial of former Takeo provincial Governor Lay Vannak and his brother Lay Narith, former provincial deputy police chief, over the murder of the former’s mistress two years ago.

They are accused, together with two others, of killing CPP youth group member Chev Sovathana, who was also a National Assembly staffer, and covering up the murder as a suicide.

The other two accused are Men Samay, 36, Mr Vannak’s driver, and Chim Vuth, 41, the husband of Ms Sovathana’s maid Chan Ry.

Deputy prosecutor Phlong Sophal yesterday said Mr Vannak and Mr Narith were charged with “intentional murder” and were arrested on April 5 last year, while Mr Samay and Mr Vuth were charged with concealment of evidence and arrested on April 3 last year.

“According to a re-investigation by Interior Ministry forensics experts and a police report dated March 5 last year, Mr Vannak and Mr Narith jointly killed the victim outside her rental house in Takeo province’s Daun Keo city,” Mr Sophal said when concluding his case. “After killing the victim, they ordered Mr Samay, Mr Vuth and Ms Ry to bring the body back into the house and hang it with curtains in her room.”

“Based on the police’s report as well as the confessions of the accused Men Samay, Chim Vutth and Chan Ry during their interrogations by Interior Ministry police, I am convinced that the four accused are responsible for the murder and ask the council to punish them according to the laws,” he added.

During yesterday’s hearing, all four accused denied the allegations, saying that the prosecutor’s accusations against them were unjust because they did not kill Ms Sovathana or have anything to do with her death.

Mr Vannak said that on the day of Ms Sovathana’s death at about 5.30 pm on January 26, 2018, Mr Samay drove him to the rental house in order to have dinner with her.

He said that after arriving at the house, he and Ms Sovathana had an argument after she accused him of having an affair with another woman.

Mr Vannak said that he then left the house and asked Mr Samay to drive him home after Ms Sovathana went to her room and locked the door.

He said that later at about 7pm, Ms Ry phoned him and said she had found Ms Sovathana’s body hanging in her room and he was shocked that she had committed suicide.

“I trust the justice system in Cambodia and I hope that the court can find truth and justice for me,” Mr Vannak said. “I did not kill Ms Sovathana. She killed herself.”

Mr Narith told the court that he only learned about the Ms Sovathana’s death after his brother called him at about 9pm and told him about the maid’s phone call. He said Mr Vannak asked him to go to the rental house to check.

Mr Narith said he arrived at the house at about 10 pm and saw the place surrounded by police.

“When I arrived at her house, I saw many military police and police officers and neighbours there,” he said. “And the maid Chan Ry told me that Ms Sovathana had committed suicide by hanging herself inside her room.”

“I then accompanied other police officers to the room and saw Ms Sovathana hanging by her throat with curtain wires,” he added and urged the court to release him because he was not involved with the death.

Both Mr Samay and Mr Vuth also told the court that they were not involved in the death and asked to be freed. They also claimed police forced them to make false confessions.

Mr Samay said that on the day of the death, he drove Mr Vannak to meet Ms Sovathana at her house and drove him back after both of them had an argument.

He noted that after Mr Vannak found out about Ms Sovathana’s death he asked him to go to the house and remove and throw away three phones belonging to her because he was afraid they contained evidence about his affair with her.

Un Chanthol, one of Mr Vannak’s lawyers, told the court that a report from the provincial Scientific and Technical Police Department in Takeo province determined that Ms Sovathan committed suicide.

He noted that in 2017, Ms Sovathana tried to commit suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills after an argument with Mr Vannak.

A verdict is due August 22.

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