Date Finally Set for Tycoon’s Trial Over Alleged Hit Order

The trial of Thong Sarath will begin next month, more than a year after the disgraced Defense Ministry official was arrested for allegedly ordering the murder of tycoon Ung Meng Chue in 2014.

The first hearing will take place at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on July 15, court spokesman Ly Sophanna said on Monday.

“The investigation needed to take a long time because this is a complicated case,” Mr. Sophanna said of the delay.

The announcement follows the death last week of Major General Sarath’s former bodyguard Ly Sao, who stood accused of carrying out the murder on his boss’s orders along with a fellow bodyguard.

Ly Sao died from encephalitis early on Friday morning after being rushed to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital the night before.

Maj. Gen. Sarath spent months on the run after being charged with masterminding the assassination of Ung Meng Chue, who was gunned down in November 2014.

He was apprehended in Svay Rieng province in April last year and convicted on related illegal weapons possession two months later.

He is currently serving a 30-month sentence at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison but is frequently ferried to the Khmer-Soviet hospital for medical treatment, according to Pin Chanthy, a Prey Sar official in charge of prisoner records.

“He goes to the Khmer-Soviet hospital to get medical treatment very often—whenever his health is unusual,” he said.

On Friday, Kea Eav, a lawyer representing Maj. Gen. Sarath and his bodyguards, took no responsibility for Ly Sao’s death, despite admitting that he had heard rumors of his client’s poor health.

Mr. Eav reasoned that even if he had known Ly Sao was suffering, asking the court to release him on medical grounds would have been futile. On Monday, however, the lawyer conceded that he had erred in not being more proactive.

“I felt upset and guilty when I learned that one of my clients had died, because he was a clean person and the court imprisoned him until he died,” he said.

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