An adviser to National Assembly and CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin who was arrested last week for his alleged role in an illicit Kompong Speu province drug laboratory apparently committed suicide while in police custody Tuesday morning, an official said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said Tuesday that Oum Chhay, 50, dove from the second story of the ministry’s Anti-Drug Department’s office in Phnom Penh at approximately 6 am and died instantly from head injury.
“[Oum Chhay] jumped from the first floor—like diving—and his head went down first,” Khieu Sopheak said. “We feel very bad about his death.”
Oum Chhay, an oknha and owner of Chhay Chhay Investment, Ltd, was arrested Aug 15 in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet commune for allegedly aiding in the transportation of more than four tons of amphetamine precursor chemicals to the Kompong Speu lab, which police raided April 1. No actual amphetamine pills were discovered at the lab.
Since his arrest, Oum Chhay had previously attempted and failed to commit suicide twice, once by running head first into a wall and again by trying to electrocute himself, Khieu Sopheak said. Then on Tuesday morning Oum Chhay reportedly eluded the three police officers escorting him to the toilet and leapt out a nearby window.
“In one second, he committed suicide,” Khieu Sopheak said, adding that a newly formed committee, headed by Deputy National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeurn, is investigating how Oum Chhay died.
“We have set up a committee to investigate his death,” Khieu Sopheak said, adding that before Oum Chhay died he had confessed to aiding in the transportation of the chemicals and revealed some details to police about the Kompong Speu drug lab.
“We got some information about this but not all,” he said, but declined to elaborate saying that the investigation is still ongoing.
By law, suspects have to be handed over to the court within 48 hours of their arrest, but Khieu Sopheak said that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had given police extra time to interrogate Oum Chhay because he had already confessed.
Municipal Court Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savuth said he was too busy to speak to a reporter, referring questions to Investigating Judge Kim Ravy, who could not be reached for comment.
Dr Chea Nareth, chief of Preah Monivong Hospital, said Tuesday by telephone that Oum Chhay’s body was brought to his hospital around 8 am for an autopsy.
Chan Soveth, chief of monitoring for local rights group Adhoc, said he had personally gone to the Anti-Drug Department office to investigate the alleged suicide, but rights groups and journalists were barred by police officials.
“When I went to go to investigate they would not allow me in the room,” Chan Soveth said. “I do not so much believe” the ministry’s version of events. He also said that police officials had told him the window Oum Chhay leapt from was about 4 to 5 meters from the ground. Heng Samrin is scheduled to return from Malaysia today and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Neth Savoeurn, National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy and Anti-Drug Department Director Moek Dara could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Tam Yim Chhay, deputy managing director for Chhay Chhay Investment—which operates the 360-hectare Chhay Chhay special economic zone in Poipet—declined to comment on Oum Chhay’s death.