Ex-Commune Chief Admits to Planning Murder

During his trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday, a former commune chief in Prek Pnov district admitted to organizing the murder of a political rival, who survived the subsequent grenade attack that claimed the life of his 11-year-old son.

The disgraced former chief of Kouk Roka commune, Phy Nop, 47, said he asked one of his co-defendants, Pov Buntheoun, 33, to arrange the murder of Sorn Sin, a realtor and commune councilor, because Mr. Sin was trying to steal his commune chief position and kill him.

Mr. Buntheoun, a community leader, told the court he then tasked Nuon Samrith and Eng Poly, both 28, with carrying out the murder.

“I asked them to do it, but later on I asked them to stop,” Mr. Nop said, claiming that his three co-defendants went ahead with the attack against his wishes because they wanted part of the $10,000 he promised Mr. Bunthoeun for the job.

According to police, Mr. Sin had been eating dinner with his children and friends outside his home in Khmuonh commune on October 9 when two men drove past on a motorbike and lobbed a grenade at them, killing his son.

Mr. Samrith, a construction worker, is accused of premeditated murder for throwing the grenade, with Mr. Poly facing the same charge for driving the motorbike.

Mr. Nop, who in May was sentenced to three years in prison in a separate case for refusing to enforce a 2008 Supreme Court ruling in a land dispute, has been charged with instigating premeditated murder. Mr. Buntheoun faces the same charge.

Asked by Consulting Judge Keo Mony to explain why he initially ordered Mr. Sin’s murder, Mr. Nop said that he heard that Mr. Sin had been trying to bribe his way into taking his commune chief position, and have him killed.

“He was willing to spend $25,000 to $35,000,” for the position, he said, adding that mutual friends warned him “to be careful because there is someone who wants to kill me.”

Mr. Nop said that after the failed assassination attempt, he paid $5,000 to Mr. Buntheoun, who then gave $2,500 to Mr. Samrith to be shared between him and Mr. Poly.

Judge Mony then chastised Mr. Nop for betraying his duties as a commune chief.

“You were a commune chief, responsible for cracking down on crime, but instead you created a crime,” he said.

“You claim you asked them not to do it after hiring them, so why do they accuse you [of masterminding the murder]?”

“I don’t know,” Mr. Nop responded.

A verdict is due on July 30.

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