Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating Judge Chey Sovann confirmed Thursday that he has closed the investigation into the February 2007 killing of Free Trade Union official Hy Vuthy.
Chey Sovann said the court lacked evidence against any suspects and therefore decided to close the case, but he added that it would be reopened if police obtain new evidence.
“We can’t spend much time on this case because we have no suspects,” he said by telephone.
Hy Vuthy, 36, was shot dead by two assailants on the morning of Feb 24, 2007, as he drove home from work at Phnom Penh’s Suntex garment factory in Dangkao district. He became the third FTU official to be gunned down since 2004.
National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy said he was unaware that the court had closed the case and expressed doubt that such was possible.
“I strongly believe the court couldn’t decide to close down this criminal case,” he said by telephone, adding that police investigations will continue until the killers are found.
Local rights group Licadho issued a statement Thursday stating that no warrants were ever issued in the Hy Vuthy case, which contradicted previous police reports.
“The police have some very serious questions to answer about their actions in this case, including why have they claimed that arrest warrants were issued and what information if any did they actually give to the court about this murder,” Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said in the statement.
The court, she added by telephone, had also violated the Criminal Procedural Code by failing to inform Hy Vuthy’s wife, Var Sopheak, and her lawyer, Ham Sunrith, that the case had been closed.
Var Sopheak said by telephone from her home province of Kompong Cham that she would appeal against the case’s closure.
Municipal police chief Touch Naruth said police will continue to investigate, adding that no arrest warrants were ever issued and he could not explain why previous media reports quoted him saying the police held arrest warrants.
Cambodian Defenders Project Executive Director Sok Sam Oeun said that police could continue to investigate even after a case is closed. However, according to the law, if Hy Vuthy’s killers are not arrested within 15 years of the case being closed, they cannot be arrested.