Court Concludes Trial Over Journalist’s Murder

The Ratanakkiri Provincial Court on Monday concluded hearings in the trial of a military police official and his wife who were charged with murdering a journalist found hacked to death in the trunk of his car last year.

Captain An Bunheng and Sim Vy are standing trial over the death of Hang Serei Odom, 42, who went missing on the night of September 9, just days after writing an expose in the Khmer-language Virakchun Khmer Daily that linked military police in the province with the illegal timber trade.

The reporter’s ax-bludgeoned body was discovered two days later, face down in the trunk of his car, which had been abandoned on a cashew plantation outside of Banlung City.

Monday’s hearing—following evidence given by six people, including military police officials last month—concluded the trial and a verdict is expected on April 30, ac- cording to Judge Ek Polyphill, one of a panel of three judges in the case.

“Because we heard testimony from a lot of witnesses in the previous hearings, [Monday] we just heard testimony from a judicial police officer,” Judge Polyphill said.

Witnesses have said they saw Mr. Bunheng drinking with the deceased reporter the same evening he disappeared.

Hang Serei Odom’s daughter, San Marady, said she also testified Monday and recounted her last contact with her father on the night he went missing.

“I told the judges that I gave my father a call, but he did not answer,” she said. Ms. Marady’s late father called her back to tell her he was too busy to talk then stopped speaking to her, but the phone line remained open, she said.

Ms. Marady said she could hear her father ask an unknown man, “What do you want?”

“Just wait and see,” came the reply, according to Ms. Marady.

Although Mr. Bunheng and Ms. Vy were arrested just two days after the body was discovered—with police claiming to discover a bloody rag in their home-cum-karaoke parlor—the investigation has come under criticism for taking too narrow a focus.

Lawyer Tep Monycheat on Monday claimed that a blood sample taken from the couple’s home and sent to Vietnam for testing had turned out not to be human blood. In September, police said they had sent the sample for testing, but have never disclosed the results.

“Everything is still under reasonable doubt and my clients were close friends of the deceased, so there was no reason for them to kill him,” said Mr. Monycheat, adding that Hang Serei Odom had accumulated numerous enemies with his investigative reporting in Ratanakkiri.

The slain journalist’s widow, Im Chanthy, also said she was concerned the court had seen a lack of evidence against the pair.

“I am hopeless and I see the justice for my dead husband is a long way off,” she said.

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