The mother and father of a senior Defense Ministry official accused of masterminding the murder of a prominent businessman in Phnom Penh last month were on Sunday charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with possession of illegal firearms and sent to Prey Sar prison, police said.
Major General Thong Sarath, a deputy cabinet chief at the Ministry of Defense who remains at large, allegedly ordered his bodyguards to assassinate Shimmex Group chairman Ung Meng Chue, who was shot dead outside a fruit store in Chamkar Mon district on November 22.
Maj. Gen. Sarath’s parents, Thong Chamroeun, 65, and Keo Sary, 55, were arrested during raids on a number of the general’s villas in Meanchey district on Wednesday night.
“For the parents, we confiscated six guns [during the raids],” municipal penal police chief Eng Sorphea said Sunday. “Now, we have put them in pretrial detention…for keeping illegal weapons, and they are awaiting their trial.”
Police failed to arrest Maj. Gen. Sarath—whose parents announced on Wednesday that they had sent him into hiding—during the raids, but detained eight other people, including the general’s mistress and his brother.
“We arrested his brother and his second wife and questioned them to see whether they were involved in the case or not,” deputy municipal police chief Chuon Narin said.
“We released them because they were not involved,” he said, adding that the other six people detained, gardeners and security guards, were released on Saturday.
The municipal court on Friday charged four of Maj. Gen. Sarath’s bodyguards—three were arrested on December 1, the fourth on Wednesday morning—with carrying out the murder.
Sieng Veasna, 44, the alleged shooter, and Ly Sao, 28, the alleged getaway driver, were charged with premeditated murder, while the other two, Meas Sambath, 27, and Koy Chanthul, 29, were charged with acting as accomplices to premeditated murder.
Mr. Sorphea said the bodyguards offered no clues about the motive for the murder.
“They said they do not know the reason for the shooting,” he said. “They just got orders to kill [Ung Meng Chue] in exchange for apartments and some money.”
Mr. Sophea also defended the decision to allow Maj. Gen. Sarath to walk free after he accompanied three of his bodyguards to the municipal police headquarters on December 1.
“At that time we arrested only the bodyguards,” he said. “If we had had enough evidence, we would have arrested him.”
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