A Vietnamese woman suspected of taking part in the assassination of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited two hotels in Phnom Penh in the month prior to the murder, hotel staff said on Thursday.
Doan Thi Huong, 28, was charged with murder, alongside 25-year-old Indonesian Siti Aisyah, after allegedly smearing a deadly nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face as he waited to check in for a flight at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13.
While many accuse North Korea of orchestrating the attack, both women have said they believed they were participating in a prank for a reality television show.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, the suspects rehearsed the attack several times, including three practice runs inside Cambodia.
Long Panha, a supervisor at V Hotel Phnom Penh, said he recognized Ms. Huong from media reports as a woman he spoke to in the lobby of his hotel near Olympic Stadium in the middle of January.
Mr. Panha said he could not recall the exact date of the encounter—and Ms. Huong’s name did not appear in the hotel’s reservation system when he checked earlier this month—but screenshots circulating on the internet purport to show Ms. Huong checking into V Hotel on a Facebook account on January 14. Photographs taken inside the hotel’s lobby, as well as in one of its rooms, were posted on the account with the caption: “I’m alone here, but I’m not lonely.” The account—under the name “Ruby Ruby”—no longer exists.
Mr. Panha said he spoke briefly with the woman—whom Malaysian authorities have identified as an “entertainment worker”—sometime between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. When approached, Ms. Huong said she was “waiting for my friend,” and when asked for a room number, she said she could not remember, he said.
She “was sitting here in the lobby alone. I just remember she only asked me where a clothes shop was,” he said. She then left to find the store, but returned to the lobby shortly afterward.
Yann Samon, the manager of V Hotel, said investigators from the Interior Ministry’s anti-terrorism department had visited “many times” since about February 25, most recently last week.
“Police came to inspect and ask questions and we provided them with documents,” he said. The officials retrieved details—including copies of passports—for all guests who stayed at the hotel in January and last month, he added.
Mr. Samon said Ms. Huong had initially tried to obtain a room at the Okay Boutique Hotel, but staff sent her to V Hotel as they were full. The two hotels direct customers to each other when they are overbooked.
Okay hotel manager Vuth Em said police had also visited his hotel to collect guest details, as well as surveillance video.
Anti-terrorism department head Y Sok Khy repeatedly said he was too busy to comment on Thursday. National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith could not be reached.