Housemaid Testifies in High-Profile Rape-Murder Plot Case

The trial of Khaou Phallaboth, one of Cambodia’s wealthiest ty­coons, and his former common-law wife Lay Huong—accused of plot­ting the rape and murder of the wife and daughter of Com­merce Minister Sun Chanthol in 2010—continued at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday.

Ms. Huong, 50, who was arrested in Thailand in December 2014 and extradited to Cambodia, has re­peatedly asserted her innocence since being charged with “initiative in a rape and premeditated mur­der attempt.”

Lay Huong leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with her daughter on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Lay Huong leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with her daughter on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

She claims her imprisonment is the result of her feud with Mr. Chanthol and his wife Sun Sotha—Mr. Phallaboth’s sister.

Mr. Phallaboth has not been ar­rested and remains the president of the Khaou Chuly Group, which has vast holdings in the construction and agriculture sectors, but faces the same charge as Ms. Huong.

The one-time couple’s trial is not the first in the high-profile case.

In 2011, the municipal court sentenced Khaou Seng Chanda, the wife of Khaou Chuly—the octogenarian father of Mr. Phallaboth and Ms. Sotha—to 20 years in pris­on over the alleged plot. Ac­cording to the court, Ms. Seng Chanda ar­ranged for a hitman to break into Mr. Chanthol’s Meanchey district villa and rape and kill Ms. Sotha and her 9-year-old daughter. Three others were also sentenced to prison for their in­volvement: two maids and the al­leged hitman.

Testifying during the trial’s third hearing on Thursday, one of the maids con­victed in 2011, Neang Sinat, told the court that while she had indeed been part of a plot against Mr. Chanthol’s family, she had no know­ledge of any involvement by Ms. Huong or Mr. Phallaboth.

“I did it, but I don’t know about Lay Huong and Khaou Phallaboth,” said Ms. Sinath, who had worked at Mr. Chanthol’s home.

“I did it because I received an or­der from Chan Sokha and Khaou Seng Chanda,” Ms. Sinath added. Ms. Sokha, the second maid, had worked at Mr. Chuly’s apartment.

“At that time, Chan Sokha gave me ten sleeping tablets and I took them to mix with food before bring­ing it to the dogs and other maids to eat,” she said. “At that time, all of the dogs and maids fell asleep.”

A court clerk also read out a collection of statements from the family patriarch, Mr. Chuly—also one of Cambodia’s wealthiest businessmen, who has been accused by Ms. Sokha of taking part in the plot.

“I did not prepare the plan to have my daughter and granddaughter raped and killed,” Mr. Chuly said in one statement, going on to accuse his son-in-law, Mr. Chanthol, of concocting the plot.

“This plot was prepared by Sun Chanthol,” he said, adding that days after the rape-murder plot was alleged to have been attempted, Mr. Chanthol tried to convince him of the danger posed by Ms. Seng Chanda and Ms. Huong.

“On June 19, 2010, Sun Chan­thol…told me that Seng Chanda wanted to kill me and Lay Huong wanted to kill Khaou Phallaboth,” Mr. Chuly said.

“At that time, I knew that His Ex­cellency Sun Chanthol had prepared this plan because he wanted my property and was afraid my wife would get it.”

Mr. Chuly added that the commerce minister had also offered him a deal to free his wife—at the ex­pense of Ms. Huong.

“Sun Chanthol tried to have me ac­cuse Lay Huong, saying he would have my wife released, but I could not do it,” he said.

“Sun Chanthol tried to break my family apart.”

on Thursday’s hearing concluded with the screening of a one-hour in­terview of Mr. Phallaboth by Soy So­pheap, owner of the Deum Am­pil news website, at the request of Mr. Chanthol’s lawyer, Pal Chandara.

“I very much regret that I previously believed Lay Huong,” Mr. Phallaboth says during the interview, explaining that he now be­lieves his former common-law wife is guilty before offering an apology to Mr. Chanthol and the minister’s wife.

Speaking to reporters as she was escorted out of the courtroom, Ms. Huong said her former hus­band was lying in the video.

“Khaou Phallaboth was not speaking the truth,” she said. “He got angry with me because I filed for divorce with him and demanded to divide up the property.”

The trial is scheduled to continue today.

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