Four Cambodian men were charged by the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court on Tuesday over the brutal beating and robbery of two expatriates on the holiday island of Koh Rong last week, a court official said.
“The court charged them with theft with aggravating circumstances based on articles 353 and 357 of the Criminal Code,” said Ros Saram, deputy prosecutor at the court. The maximum penalty for the crime is 10-years incarceration.
The four suspects—Vann Sihavorn, 22; Chup Tith, 27; Khuon Hun, 24; and Choem Ratana, 27—allegedly stormed the Broken Heart guesthouse on Koh Rong late Thursday night, attacking its owner, Finnish national Jouni Niemi, 49, and cashier, British national Michael Hay, 27, with bricks and steel bars as they moved money to an onsite safe. According to police, the assailants stole $3,000 cash, a laptop and other electronics.
Police on Monday said the four confessed to planning and carrying out the attack, but on Tuesday in the dock, the suspects said otherwise.
“All the suspects denied the police report and answered that they did not commit the crime but that the police forced them to confess,” Mr. Saram said. “However, the court cannot believe them, so they have been sent to pretrial detention as we investigate in more detail.”
Contacted Tuesday, Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Seang Kosal said the arrests were made after the two victims positively identified one of the assailants, Mr. Hun, who had been employed at the Broken Heart until January.
“We arrested them based upon the victims pointing out a suspect and the suspect told the police about the rest of the group,” Mr. Kosal said.
The robbery on Koh Rong—about 20 km off the coast—took place while a team of high-level Interior Ministry officials was in Sihanoukville to investigate a spate of violent crimes involving foreigners, including those surrounding an ongoing feud between well-connected Russian businessmen Sergei Polonsky and Nikolai Doroshenko.
In Bora, director of the Interior Ministry’s central security department, said Tuesday that his officials met with Mr. Polonsky, but declined to give further details.
Ostap Doroshenko, the son of Nikolai and a captain in the provincial immigration police force, said the delegation from Phnom Penh had not questioned his father.
“Those people already know about my father,” Ostap Doroshenko said. “They took all their information from local police.”