Ex-Monk Charged in Shooting Death of Deputy Pagoda Chief

The Kompong Speu Provincial Court on Friday charged a former monk with the premeditated murder of a 76-year-old monk who was shot dead on January 24 while presiding over a Buddhist ceremony, officials said Sunday.

On January 25, police arrested Chea Sarann, 33, on suspicion of fatally shooting Moeung Um—the first deputy chief monk at the Ang Sniet pagoda in Samraong Tong district—as he spoke at a one-year death anniversary in Taing Krouch commune the previous night.

Because police did not have enough proof to charge Mr. Sarann in the days following the murder, the provincial court on Wednesday gave them an additional 48 hours to find evidence, deputy provincial police chief Saom Bora said at the time.

Mr. Bora said on Wednesday, however, that police had established several possible motives for the murder, including one related to Moeung Um’s suspected involvement in “black magic.”

Contacted Sunday, Mr. Bora said Mr. Sarann was still the only suspect police had arrested.

“It’s a revenge case,” he said. “I don’t want to comment more; the case has been handed over to the court.”

Investigating Judge Yan Sopheap said he charged Mr. Sarann with premeditated murder on Friday and ordered that he be placed in provisional detention at the provincial prison while the court continues its investigation.

Mr. Sopheap would not say what evidence the court had against the former monk.

“He has not yet confessed,” Mr. Sopheap said. “We need time to investigate other witnesses who were with him that night.”

Pich Pon, chief monk at the Ang Sniet pagoda—where Mr. Sarann was a monk until December 7— said he believed the suspect was innocent.

The chief monk said he met with provincial police on Tuesday in an attempt to convince them to set Mr. Sarann free.

“I don’t know why they sent him to court,” he said. “I wonder why he was charged with premeditated murder without evidence.”

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