Construction magnate Khaou Phallaboth has written a public letter denying that Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol, his brother-in-law, pressured him into writing a recent letter apologizing for accusations he leveled against the minister, specifically that Mr. Chanthol fabricated an elaborate crime in order to take a greater share of the immense Khaou family fortune.
In a lengthy court case that ended in 2012, Mr. Chanthol accused Khaou Seng Chanda, Mr. Phallaboth’s stepmother, of plotting to rape and murder Mr. Chanthol’s wife and daughter.
Mr. Phallaboth said at the time that Mr. Chanthol had invented the crime and was using the courts to “occupy the estate of the Khaou family.”
Despite a dearth of evidence, Ms. Seng Chanda was found guilty and is serving 20 years in prison.
Mr. Phallaboth wrote an initial letter of apology to Mr. Chanthol in November. In response to that letter, Huy Sokleap, the daughter of the imprisoned Ms. Seng Chanda, said that she believed that Mr. Phallaboth was pressured into writing the letter.
In another letter dated March 13, Mr. Phallaboth refuted those comments by Ms. Sokleap, which were published in The Cambodia Daily.
“I clarify that the letter on November 29, 2013, was my own decision without any force from Sun Chanthol,” Mr. Phallaboth wrote, adding that he and Mr. Chanthol had not even seen each other since the court case.
Mr. Phallaboth also called on his father, who also claimed that Mr. Chanthol manufactured the charges against his wife, to publicly admit that his jailed wife had indeed plotted to kill his daughter and granddaughter.
“I am concerned about father Khaou Chuly,” Mr. Phallaboth wrote. “Maybe he received pressure…that makes him not dare to meet with his children and grandchildren and clarify the truth.”
In his letter in November, and the latest missive this week, Mr. Phallaboth writes that since the trial in 2012, he has learned that Ms. Seng Chanda, along with Lay Huong, his own second wife, hatched a plan to break into Mr. Chanthol’s Phnom Penh villa to kill his wife and daughter.
“I request to father Khaou Chuly, please say all the truth to the public and please father don’t look for the person to release [your wife] Seng Chanda,” Mr. Phallaboth wrote.
Both Mr. Phallaboth and Mr. Chuly were estimated to be among Cambodia’s 10 richest men in a cable from the U.S. Embassy released by Wikileaks in 2011.
Mr. Chanthol is a senior ruling party member who was promoted to commerce minister following July’s election, replacing CPP stalwart Cham Prasidh.