Guesthouse Guard on the Run After Murder by Chair Leg

A guard at a guesthouse in central Phnom Penh is on the run after beating his colleague to death with a wooden chair leg in their shared bedroom on Monday morning, according to police and the family that owns the guesthouse.

Soeung Serey, 52, whose family owns the Sorya 9 Stars guesthouse in Daun Penh district, said staff discovered the bloody corpse of But Sao, 20, at about 1:30 p.m. in the room he shared with the 25-year-old suspect, Pom Rotha.

A police officer drives past the Sorya 9 Stars guesthouse, left, in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Olivia Harlow/The Cambodia Daily)

“He had been hit in the head with a chair leg, I think he beat him while he was asleep,” Mr. Serey said in the foyer of the guesthouse, located a block from Central Market in Phsar Thmei II commune.

The two men had both been hired to work the night shift at the guesthouse, but Mr. Rotha only began working there on Friday, he said.

According to Mr. Serey, guards working the day shift wake up their colleagues on the night shift around noon.

But on Monday, he said, Mr. Rotha left the building in the morning, telling his employers that he was attending a wedding, and never returned. When fellow guards attempted to open the door to his bedroom, it was locked.

“We think [But Sao] was killed around 8 a.m. because the killer left around 9 a.m. He said he was going to a wedding party, so we thought nothing of it,” Mr. Serey said. “It was hours later that they went upstairs and found him.”

Asked about a possible motive for the murder, Mr. Serey said it was still unclear, but noted that other employees at the hotel heard Mr. Rotha complaining that his new partner had not been pulling his weight.

“I’m unsure about the motive,” he said. “However, the other two workers said they overheard the murderer complaining that the victim was lazy so perhaps he became angry because of this.”

Commune police chief Mey Watana said investigators were attempting to track down Mr. Rotha.

“We have concluded that this murder may be the result of a personal dispute between the suspect and the victim,” he said.

Mr. Watana said Mr. Rotha was initially thought to be hiding in his home district of Phnom Sruoch in Kompong Speu province. But Phnom Sruoch district police chief Say Bunthon said that on Monday night, when police arrived at his family’s home, he was nowhere to be found.

“The suspect has not yet returned to his hometown, but we are on the lookout for him,” Mr. Bunthon said.

Daun Penh district police chief Huot Chanyourann said the suspected murderer was likely still in the capital.

“Our police are seeking to arrest him,” he said. “We know the murderer’s identity and he can’t escape from our net.”

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