Interior Ministry officials said Tuesday that Thong Sarath, a senior military officer wanted for coordinating the murder of a prominent businessman in Phnom Penh last month, has likely fled the country, leading police to call on Interpol to help track him down.
Major General Sarath, a deputy cabinet chief at the Defense Ministry, is accused of ordering four of his bodyguards to assassinate Shimmex Group chairman Ung Meng Chue, who was shot dead outside a fruit store in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district on November 22.
On Friday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged the four bodyguards with carrying out the murder and placed them in provisional detention at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison.
During raids on three of his villas in Meanchey district on December 3, police arrested Maj. Gen. Sarath’s mother and father but failed to arrest the general himself. His parents, who hail from Vietnam, were subsequently charged with illegal weapons possession and jailed.
“We are looking for Thong Sarath,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Tuesday. “He has gone into hiding. It seems to be he is not in the country.”
General Sopheak said the specific whereabouts of Maj. Gen. Sarath—also a wealthy tycoon whose family has vast business holdings—were a mystery.
“Maybe Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, how can we know?”
Chhay Sinarith, director of the Interior Ministry’s internal security department, said police have recruited Cambodia’s Interpol office to assist in the case.
“We are working with our Interpol office,” Lieutenant General Sinarith said. “When we ask them to help, they have to look into a case.”
“If [Maj. Gen. Sarath] is innocent, he should come forward and fight his case in court,” he added.
Lim Sokha Raksmey, acting director of Cambodia’s Interpol office, confirmed that the municipal police, who are leading the investigation, contacted his office.
“We are…cooperating with municipal police on the case,” he said.
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