A manhunt is underway in two provinces for a farmer from rural Kompong Cham who flew into a drunken rage late Monday night and massacred his wife, two young children and mother-in-law in a machete attack that also left his father-in-law fighting for his life, police said.
Police are also searching in Takeo province for the suspect, 46-year-old Eng Thy, who has a history of threatening and abusing his wife and her parents.
“We have asked Takeo provincial police to cooperate on investigations to find the suspect and we have contacted police around the country to make them aware that he is wanted for arrest,” said Chan Hor, deputy chief of Kompong Cham’s judicial police bureau.
According to police, Mr. Thy had consumed about half a liter of rice wine on Monday evening when he engaged in a heated argument with his wife, causing her to take their two children, aged 4 and 5, to spend the night at her parents’ home next door.
Shortly after, at about 11:30 p.m., the grandparents, Mao Yeang, 65, and Svay Sakhorn, 69, noticed that Mr. Thy’s home was on fire and went to check but, as they reached the bottom of their stairs, were met by their son-in-law wielding a machete, said Heang Meng, chief of police in Chamkar Loeu district’s Speu commune.
After slashing their heads, Mr. Thy then entered their home, where he found his wife, Chanty Sopheany, 45, and their children, and set upon them with his weapon, Mr. Meng said.
“All victims were struck on the neck and above the ears. The bodies were covered in blood,” he said. “The four victims died immediately and the father-in-law was sent to Phnom Penh to be treated for serious injuries.”
In the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital’s emergency ward on Tuesday, doctor Lim Saren said that professionals were doing their best to stabilize Mr. Sakhorn.
Dr. Saren said the grandfather had undergone surgery to repair damage from a machete blow that cracked the back of his skull, and that it was unclear if he would survive.
“These are serious injuries,” he said. “We are doing our best to save him but we can’t be sure of his chances because he lost a lot of blood.”
Mr. Meng, the commune police chief who attended the murder scene, said Mr. Thy had a history of feuding with his wife, particularly over her parents, and that the blaze that had drawn them out of their home was the result of the suspect setting fire to his wife’s clothing.
“The suspect always fights with his wife when he is drunk. He was brought to the commune police office and educated about a year ago when he insulted his father-in-law and threatened to kill him,” Mr. Meng said.
At the time, Mr. Thy had complained to police that his wife would often give fish that he had caught to her parents, and that his in-laws loved their other grandchildren more than they did his offspring, Mr. Meng said.
Another member of Mr. Sakhorn’s family also spoke of a wild man who fought too often with his wife when inebriated.
“When he is drunk he always argues with his wife. Sometimes she runs away and sleeps in my house,” said Born Sinath, Mr. Sakhorn’s niece, who lives about 500 meters from the murder scene.
She said neighbors had heard a disturbance the night of the murders but dared not intervene.