As the attempted murder trial of wealthy businessman Khaou Chuly’s wife concluded yesterday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Mr Chuly and his son Khaou Phallaboth publicly accused government minister Sun Chanthol of fabricating charges.
Mr Chuly’s wife, Khaou Seng Chanda, was arrested in July for allegedly organizing an assassination attempt on Sun Sotha, her stepdaughter and the wife of vice chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia Sun Chanthol, as well as the couple’s young daughter.
Mr Chuly told reporters outside the courthouse yesterday that Mr Chanthol had contrived the case against his wife as part of a family squabble and that his son-in-law had even offered to drop the charges if Mr Chuly agreed to point the finger elsewhere.
“Chanthol told me to discuss the matter with my wife and to accuse the wife of Phallaboth of being involved with the case,” said Mr Chuly. “This was set up by Chanthol based on an internal family dispute.”
Mr Chuly claimed yesterday that Mr Chanthol had concocted the charges in order to ensure that his wife would be granted a significant portion of the property-based fortune she and her 11 siblings were set to inherit.
Khaou Phallaboth repeated his father’s accusations, saying that Mr Chanthol had conspired with one of his sisters, Khaou Chulasady, to ensure their future inherited wealth.
“It is clear that this happened because they were worried about my father’s property,” said Mr Phallaboth.
Mr Phallaboth, a Major General, added that he believed he had been fired from his former positions in the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit and as adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen based on rumors circulated by Mr Chanthol.
“Mr Chanthol told the prime minister that I am not to be trusted so they fired me from my position in August of last year,” said Mr Phallaboth.
Mr Phallaboth appealed to his brother-in-law to stop hurting him and his family.
“I plea to Sun Chanthol, stop doing these things. I kneel down to you three times,” said Mr Phallaboth.
Mr Chanthol declined yesterday to comment on the attempted murder trial, but denied having anything to do with Mr Phallaboth’s removal from government positions.
“I was not involved with the withdrawal of Khaou Phallaboth’s position,” said Mr Chanthol.
Lim Vanna, Ms Seng Chanda’s lawyer, said on Tuesday that he felt that witnesses and suspects had demonstrated to the court that they had been threatened and intimidated by police. Chan Sokha, the woman Ms Seng Chanda allegedly asked to organize the killings, recanted a prior confession during her testimony, saying police had pressured her to admit guilt.
“We have shown that this case was set up,” said Mr Vanna.
Pal Chantara, a civil party lawyer for Sun Chanthol’s family, also expressed confidence yesterday, saying: “I have strong evidence, and they cannot exculpate with weak evidence.”
Kim Dany, one of the judges hearing the case, said Tuesday that the trial had taken an unusually long time because of the case’s many twists and turns.
“This is complicated, especially because no one has confessed,” Judge Dany said by telephone.
Four alleged accomplices, including Ms Sokha, were tried alongside Ms Seng Chanda on attempted murder charges. Mr Chanthol’s maid, Neang Sinat, was accused of providing access to Mr Chanthol’s house so that Sok Lak and Yean Sothearith could sneak inside and carry out the killings.
Speaking to the court yesterday, all five accused plotters reasserted their innocence and requested release. Presiding Judge Sin Visal announced yesterday that a verdict would be given on Feb 15.