Police in Prey Veng province on Sunday night arrested the parents of fugitive general Thong Sarath, who is wanted for coordinating the murder of businessman Ung Meng Chue in November, as the couple attempted to flee into Vietnam in an ambulance, officials said.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday placed the parents —initially jailed on weapons-possession charges on December 7 following police raids on the family’s Phnom Penh villas that turned up a cache of illegal firearms—back in prison for violating their bail conditions, according to their lawyer.
Upon their release on bail on February 7, Major General Sarath’s parents—Thong Chamroeun, his father, and Keo Savy, his mother —were ordered not to leave the country unless accompanied by their lawyers, who must request permission from the court.
“The court decided to detain them because the court claimed that they abused the court’s order,” Sy Sathya, a lawyer for the couple, said after Mr. Chamroeun and Ms. Savy were questioned by Investigating Judge Ly Sokleng Monday morning.
“They did not have any intention to escape,” he said, explaining that the couple was in the ambulance on their way to Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh penal police chief Eng Sorphea, however, said police in Prey Veng province arrested the general’s parents as they were heading in the direction of the Vietnamese border.
“We arrested them as they were traveling to Vietnam,” he said. “[Mr. Chamroeun] wanted to get treatment in Vietnam. It’s not like the lawyer said.”
Seng Ponlok, chief of police in Prey Veng’s Peamro district, said his officers arrested the couple on National Road 1 in Nak Loeung commune as the ambulance was driving away from Phnom Penh.
“I arrested both the husband and wife at 9:30 p.m. yesterday on orders from the Prey Veng provincial police chief,” he said, adding that a driver and a woman in a nurse’s uniform were also in the vehicle.
Mr. Ponlok said the couple was in a private clinic’s ambulance, but that he did not bother to note the name of the clinic in his report.
“After we arrested them, we handed them over to the Phnom Penh police force,” he said.
Deputy Phnom Penh police chief Chuon Narin declined to comment.
Mr. Chamroeun’s health was cited by the municipal court as its reason for deciding to release the couple on bail earlier this month, and Mr. Sathya, the lawyer, said it continued to be a concern.
“If the court continues to detain him, it can seriously affect his health,” he said. “He can die because his liver disease is serious.”
As they were entering the court on Monday, Ms. Savy and Mr. Chamroeun—who was holding a flashlight-like device against his chest—ignored reporters’ questions.
Maj. Gen. Sarath, who is accused of ordering four of his bodyguards to kill Ung Meng Chue, is still at large. The bodyguards are being held in prison along with a fifth guard arrested last week for lending them his motorbike.