3 Family Members Detained In Death of Fisheries Official

A husband, wife and son were de­­tained for questioning Tuesday in connection with the killing of a Kompong Thom province fisheries administration official who was killed at his office last week, a district police official said Thursday.

The suspects were identified by Stung Sen District police chief Nhem Chhunly as Mach Sithul, 51, her husband, Chhum Sophea, 52, and her son, 28-year-old Chhum Sophearith. The three are being detained for questioning, while the provincial court’s Investigating Judge Tean En decides on whether to formally charge the family with murder, Kompong Thom Pro­secutor Ky Sovantha said via telephone Thursday.

The family was arrested Tues­day over the death of 37-year-old Ek Heng, who was found hacked to death in his office Dec 22. He had been chopped in the head six or seven times with a meat cleaver, Ky Sovantha said at the time.

According to police, Mach Sithul works in the same office as the deceased, and her husband, Ch­hum Sophea, works in the Kom­pong Thom provincial forestry administration office. The couple’s son, Chhum Sophearith, works in Phnom Penh.

Tean En declined to discuss his investigation Thursday.

Ky Sovantha said the death was “an intentional killing case,” adding that the investigating judge had un­til today to either press charges ag­ainst the three suspects or release them.

Nhem Chhunly said there was a fourth suspect in the killing who has not yet been detained.

Yim Sikhuon, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said Ek Heng—who had been reassigned from Sihanoukville less than eight months before his death—had been promoted to di­rector of the province’s fisheries ad­min­istration over more tenured employees.

He had also made policy chan­ges as director that resulted in tense relations with the fisheries community, Yim Sikhuon said.

Ky Sovantha and police officials declined to comment on possible motives behind the killing.


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