A bodyguard accused of carrying out the 2014 murder of tycoon Ung Meng Chue on the order of his powerful boss died of encephalitis on Friday after being rushed to Phnom Penh’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital the day before, a hospital official said.
Ly Sao, who was awaiting trial on charges of premeditated murder, was pronounced dead at the hospital in the early morning after collapsing at Prey Sar prison before noon, according to Chhoeung Yav Yen, a deputy director at the hospital.
Ly Sao died of encephalitis, the deputy director said, adding that he had also been HIV-positive.
“The patient died because he was in a bad condition and he arrived at the hospital very late,” he said.
Ly Sao’s lawyer, Kea Eav, said he learned about his client’s death on Facebook.
“I never ever thought my client would die like this,” he said.
Mr. Eav said Ly Sao never told him about his medical conditions.
“People said my client had health problems, but I did not know what kind of health problems he had,” Mr. Eav said, adding that even if he had known about the encephalitis and HIV, efforts to have him released on bail on medical grounds would have been futile.
“This is a big murder case, so I know the court wouldn’t have agreed to my request,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana refused to answer questions about Ly Sao’s death, and Investigating Judge Ly Sokleng hung up on a reporter.
Prison officials could not be reached.
Ly Sao was accused of helping his colleague Sieng Veasna gun down Ung Meng Chue outside a fruit store in Chamkar Mon district in November 2014 on the order of their employer, Defense Ministry official Thong Sarath, who stands charged with orchestrating the assassination.
Major General Sarath is currently serving a 30-month prison sentence on weapons charges related to the case.