Court Gives Police More Time to Link Man to Monk’s Murder

The Kompong Speu Provincial Court on Wednesday ruled to allow the provincial police to continue holding the only suspect in the murder of a 76-year-old monk after officers failed to produce enough evidence to charge him, an official said.

Police arrested Chea Sarann, 33, a former monk at the Ang Sniet pagoda in Samraong Tong district, on Sunday morning on suspicion of shooting dead Moeung Um, the first deputy chief monk at the pagoda, as he spoke at a Buddhist ceremony on Saturday.

Deputy provincial police chief Saom Bora said a provincial court prosecutor had granted police permission to continue holding Mr. Sarann until 3 p.m. on Friday.

“This is a big case so we need more time,” Mr. Bora said, adding that authorities had established several possible motives for the murder, but still lacked enough evidence to lay charges.

“The victim may have been involved with black magic,” he speculated.

Pich Pon, chief monk at the Ang Sniet pagoda, said he was convinced that Mr. Sarann was innocent because the former monk, who left the pagoda in early December, was at his mother’s house at the time of the murder.

The chief monk said Mr. Sarann and his cousin were in Phnom Penh on Saturday, but left for Kompong Speu’s Phnom Sruoch district that afternoon after his mother fell and injured herself.

“I got a call from Mr. Sarann at 9:04 p.m. [Saturday] telling me that our monk had been killed,” Pich Pon said. “I asked him to go to Ang Sniet pagoda…to prepare a place to keep the dead monk.”

Pich Pon added that representatives of his pagoda and the Kompong Speu chief monk would meet with police following a seven-day ceremony marking Moeung Um’s death, which begins today.

“We will discuss why Mr. Sarann was arrested for over 48 hours without any evidence against him,” he said.

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