A week had passed, but relatives and officials were still at a loss yesterday to explain why a seemingly harmless 33-year-old carpenter had brutally murdered five of his family members inside his home in Svay Rieng province’s Svay Chrum district.
Last Wednesday night, Kuoch Samnang used a machete to hack his wife, two-year-old son, 13-year-old brother-in-law, a sister-in-law and his mother-in-law to death. During the attack Samnang also injured his three-year-old daughter, his wife’s 16-year-old adopted sister and his 12-year-old nephew, who are all still under observation at the hospital. Then he hung himself.
Left behind with the corpses and pools of blood were unanswered questions as to what had caused the man to commit an act so shocking that even hardened police, used to violence at its worst, were left reeling.
As the funeral of the five murdered family members concluded yesterday in Svay Chrum district’s Svay Chrum commune, relatives of the victims were still searching for answers.
In a phone interview yesterday, Sok Chandy, 37, sister of Samnang’s wife, Sok Tepy, said she had never imagined such brutal acts could be committed. “I had never thought of such a thing,” she said. “I had never…even heard anything as cruel as this.”
Ms Chandy confirmed previous police reports that Samnang’s motives were related to the family’s decision to punish him for attempting to rape his wife’s 16-year-old adopted sister. Authorities last week claimed that Samnang’s mother-in-law had traveled from Siem Reap province to confront him over the alleged rape attempt.
“I think he killed the family because he thought his wife would not be with him anymore after she learnt about his [rape attempts],” she said, adding that her brother-in-law’s actions had not been in keeping with his character. “He was a gentle man and he never insulted or hit his wife,” she said.
“We didn’t hold a funeral for him because he became a brutal killer. He killed his own son and was about to kill his daughter.”
Svay Chrum commune chief Nguon Sarith said he understood that Samnang had previously suffered from a drug problem, but had never caused any trouble in the community. “He had a background of drug use, but he quit a long time ago and became a good man,” Mr Sarith said. “He had never caused any problems.”
District governor Uy Than said he was still coming to terms with the incident. “I have never seen anything like this before,” he said, adding that he believed the killings may have occurred because the family tried to deal with their dispute internally.
Commune police chief Sek Samoeurn agreed, saying that the investigation into the deaths had concluded because the deaths of most of the witnesses made it near impossible for police to find out the precise details of what led to the murders.
“The family, themselves, tried to be a court and maybe if they had informed authorities of their problems earlier, none of this would have happened,” he said.