The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday extended the provisional detention of four bodyguards who stand accused of carrying out the murder last year of tycoon Ung Meng Chue on the orders of their boss, Defense Ministry official Thong Sarath.
Ung Meng Chue, chairman of the Shimmex Group, was gunned down outside a fruit store in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district on November 22 last year. Major General Sarath stands accused of orchestrating the killing and was jailed in April after being arrested near the Vietnamese border.
Sieng Veasna, 44, the alleged shooter, and Ly Sao, 42, the alleged getaway driver, have been charged with premeditated murder, while Meas Sambath, 27, and Koy Chanthol, 29, were arrested early last December and charged as accomplices to the crime.
According to the law, suspects can only be held for 18 months before facing trial, with the investigating judge required to request an extension every six months. Speaking to a reporter after Wednesday’s hearing, Investigating Judge Ly Sokleng confirmed that the bodyguards, who were arrested a year ago, would remain in prison.
“Their detention was extended,” he said. “I don’t want to make further comments to reporters.”
Contacted by phone, Kea Eav, a lawyer for the four bodyguards, said that if there was insufficient evidence to send his clients to trial, they should be released.
“In my understanding, if there is not enough evidence to inculpate, the court should release them and they don’t need to delay anymore,” Mr. Eav said, adding that his clients have not requested bail because they had no hope of receiving it.
Speaking to a reporter following the hearing, Mr. Chanthol, one of the alleged accomplices, protested his innocence.
“I did not even know who Mr. Ung Meng Chue was,” he said. “I will not accept this charge…. My wife and children are suffering, brother.”