takhmau, Kandal province – The Chinese national stabbed to death early Sunday in Ang Snuol district was the victim of a dispute between Chinese gangsters, a senior Kandal provincial police official asserted Wednesday.
“Gangsters killed each other. They stabbed a friend,” Tom Vai, deputy chief of Kandal judicial police, said at his office 15 km outside Phnom Penh.
The victim, identified as Cxai Lee, 39, was a key organizer of 25 illegal Chinese immigrants taken into custody in Phnom Penh on Monday, less than 24 hours after he was killed, police have said.
Cxai Lee was taken from his room at Le President Hotel at about 3:30 am Sunday and driven by five men to a worksite, where he was stabbed in the side and chest, Tom Vai maintained.
Workers near the murder site said the attackers’ white Toyota Camry had police registration plates, but Tom Vai said no police had been linked to the murder.
Tom Vai said the vehicle had been rented from Tonle Bassac commune chief Phen Vann, who investigators had not contacted. The car was found abandoned near the murder scene, he said.
One suspect, an unknown Chinese national, was arrested by Phnom Penh municipal police when he returned to Le President Hotel on Sunday afternoon, Tom Vai said. This account differed from what he said Tuesday about the arrest, which was that a suspect was arrested on Route 2 and taken to the Interior Ministry compound.
The 25 were discovered in a Chamkar Mon district house Monday after four tried to escape by jumping out a first-floor window. They tried to escape after learning of Cxai Lee’s death and becoming scared, according to some of the Chinese interviewed Tuesday, and Sim Vuthy, Chamkar Mon district deputy inspector.
The 25, mostly tailors and shoemakers who paid thousands of dollars to come to Cambodia, claim they have spent much of the last year locked in a series of Phnom Penh houses waiting for Cxai Lee to arrange passage to western countries. They said they did not know what type of documents Cxai Lee was trying to get for them.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Doyle)