A South Korean businessman shot in the head at a roadside shelter in Kandal province last week was likely killed over an unpaid debt, authorities said on Wednesday as the alleged shooter was charged with premeditated murder.
Phoun Ratha, 38, was arrested near Phnom Penh’s Central Market on Saturday night. He stands accused of shooting the victim—a mobile phone operator identified by the South Korean Embassy only as Cho—three times, including once in the head, after arriving at a rest stop in Kandal Stung district together in a car on August 10.
Although the business relationship between the two men remains unclear, the murder was motivated by a debt Mr. Ratha owed the South Korean man, National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said on Tuesday.
“He owed money to that Korean national, so the Korean national asked him to pay him back,” he said. “So he shot him dead in order to prevent him from asking to pay back the money anymore.”
Brigadier General Hy said the victim had borrowed the car from another South Korean man but declined to say whether that man was part of the investigation. According to the embassy, the victim had been living in Phnom Penh for two years, and had a wife and children in South Korea.
The car was found abandoned in neighboring Takeo province on the day of the shooting, according to Kandal Stung district police chief Men Chanrith.
Mr. Ratha, from Kandal’s Takhmao City, was questioned at the provincial military police headquarters before being sent to the provincial court on Wednesday, where he was charged with premeditated murder—which carries a life sentence—and sent to prison to await trial, according to court spokesman So Sarin.