Bodyguard in Murder Case Gets New Charges, Detention

Pech Prum Mony, a military general who was jailed in February for judicial interference and convicted in November, was due to walk free later this month.

But according to his lawyer, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday ordered Brigadier General Prum Mony to spend six more months in provisional detention after laying down two new charges.

Pech Prum Mony leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday. (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)
Pech Prum Mony leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday. (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)

The general was found guilty of interfering in an investigation into the November 2014 assassination of businessman Ung Meng Chue.

During the trial, he admitted to infiltrating the family of Thong Sarath, a Defense Ministry official charged with orchestrating the murder, but said he did so on orders from then-Phnom Penh Municipal Court director Ang Mealaktei, whom he had been serving as a bodyguard and driver. Mr. Mealaktei has since been ousted and is currently in prison awaiting trial on corruption charges.

On Thursday, Brig. Gen. Prum Mony’s lawyer, Pheng Sideth, said Investigating Judge Than Leng questioned his client in the morning and immediately thereafter laid down the two new charges—passive trading in influence and, again, interfering in the work of officials—and ordered the provisional detention.

The trading-in-influence charge stems from a basket of wine and candy that Brig. Gen. Prum Mony received from Major General Sarath’s parents during a lunch outing. Only days earlier, the court granted the parents bail while they were facing illegal weapons charges, a decision Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly suggested had been arranged with a $5 million bribe.

Mr. Sideth said he told Judge Leng on Thursday that it was inappropriate to charge his client with interference a second time for the same case, but was ignored.

“I informed the judge that charging him with that article, based on the suggestion of the deputy prosecutor, was not correct under the law,” he said. “We tried to raise this point, but the investigating judge did not consider this point.”

Neither Judge Leng nor the deputy prosecutor could be reached.

Mr. Sideth said it was wrong to charge Brig. Gen. Prum Mony with interference because he had only been following orders from his boss. The gift basket, he added, was an innocent present.

“If this article is used to charge, in Cambodia, there would not be enough prisons to imprison people,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Prum Mony denied any criminal intent in accepting the gift basket.

“Thong Sarath’s mother gave me a gift package during Chinese New Year; it was a bottle of wine and a pack of candy. There was no money,” he said.

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