During his trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday, a two-star military general described killing his wife and their 6-year-old daughter before packing their bodies into a cooler, but argued he should not be charged with premeditated murder because he had killed them “accidentally.”
Kim Marintha, a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces major general, told the court that he strangled his wife, Va Dary, 30, during an argument in February last year and in the struggle bumped into his daughter, Kim Thavichada, causing her to fall down a flight of stairs to her death.
After the incident, Major General Marintha fled to Thailand, where he was arrested in September while attempting to cross the border by car into Laos.
In court Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Marintha said he killed his wife after discovering she was gambling and having an affair.
“I confess to the murder,” he told the court. “She was gambling and made love with another man. I don’t like gamblers and liars.”
Va Dary’s family said last year that she was having an online relationship with a Cambodian man living in Japan.
Maj. Gen. Marintha, who owns the GST Express Bus company in Phnom Penh, said Wednesday that he returned to Phnom Penh on February 14 last year after visiting relatives in Kompong Cham province. He and Va Dary then began arguing, he said.
“After I slapped her face she used a shoe to hit my head,” he said. “I became so angry I couldn’t control my feelings and I strangled her and pushed her against the bed.”
During the fight with his wife, Maj. Gen. Marintha said, he bumped into his young daughter, causing her to plummet down a flight of stairs and break her neck.
“I went to check my daughter but she was already dead,” he said.
After killing his wife and daughter, he told the court, he wrapped their bodies in plastic bags, stuffed them into a cooler and told his security guard to load the cooler into his Lexus SUV.
According to police, Maj. Gen. Marintha then asked his son-in-law, Chea Sok Samnang, and his son, Kim Sem Rithy, to dump the cooler in a forest in Kompong Speu province.
Mr. Sem Rithy remains at large, but Mr. Sok Samnang was arrested in August 2014 for his suspected involvement in the crime and was tried along with his father-in-law Wednesday.
Mr. Sok Samnang, who is charged with concealment of a corpse, told the court that he did not know what was in the cooler.
“I asked him later what was inside it, but he told me not to ask anymore,” he said. “I only found out when I saw the news in the newspaper about one month later.”
Maj. Gen. Marintha said that since he had not planned to kill his wife and daughter, he should not be convicted of premeditated murder, which carries a life sentence.
“I did not intend to kill my wife and daughter; I wouldn’t even dare to kill an animal,” he said.
When asked by Mak Bunna, a lawyer for the victims’ family, why he did not take his wife and daughter to a hospital, Maj. Gen. Marintha said he knew they were already dead.
“I am also a medic,” he said.
After listening to evidence presented by Maj. Gen. Marintha’s defense team, deputy prosecutor Seu Vanny said the court would not reduce the charges against him.
“Based on answers from the plaintiffs and defendants, the accused intended to commit premeditated murder,” she said.
Presiding Judge Heng Kesaro said the court’s verdict would be delivered on June 24.