Meas Sambath, a former bodyguard for disgraced military general Thong Sarath, took the stand on Monday in the ongoing trial over the 2014 murder of tycoon Ung Meng Chue, testifying that he was playing cards all day on the day of the hit and did not leave his boss’s office complex.
Mr. Sambath and four fellow guards were charged with carrying out an assassination on the orders of Mr. Sarath, whose family also has vast business holdings including construction firm Borey 999. The general was charged with instigating the killing and arrested last year after a monthslong manhunt.
Bodyguards Sieng Veasna and Ly Sao were both charged with premeditated murder after police said they admitted to driving to a Phnom Penh fruit store where Mr. Veasna shot Ung Meng Chue six times as he exited his Lexus SUV at about 7 p.m. on November 22, 2014.
Ly Sao died in June of encephalitis. Mr. Sambath, along with fellow bodyguards Koy Chanthul and Chhun Chetra, were charged as accomplices for allegedly keeping watch over the scene. The four surviving bodyguards have since insisted they were innocent and recanted their confessions.
On the stand on Monday, Mr. Sambath said he had never heard of the victim until a video of his murder was posted to Facebook.
“I stood by at Borey 999 from early in the morning until 7 p.m.,” he said of the company’s Phnom Penh office building. “In the morning, we played card games and then after lunch we continued our game.”
“I did not go anywhere,” he said. “But I don’t know about Sieng Veasna.”
Mr. Sarath was again absent from the trial on Monday due to ongoing health problems. Ngy Meng, director of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, confirmed that Mr. Sarath had been in and out of the hospital, but said he did not know what he was suffering from.