Man Trying to Provide Suspect Alibi Is Arrested

Tuol Kok district police arrested a military policeman on char­ges of robbery Wednesday afternoon. They had arrested him previously on Jan 28 as a suspect in Chea Vichea’s killing and later released him.

Suong Sokha, 30, is also the third person police have apprehended in three days who has tried to provide an alibi for a suspect in the union leader’s murder.

Suong Sokha had been in touch with human rights investigators and, Wednesday morning, had spoken to reporters about locating a friend who could vouch for the whereabouts of murder suspect Sok Sam Oeun at the time of the union leader’s shooting.

Sok Sam Oeun, 36, was arrested Jan 28 at Suong Sokha’s home and is being held for Chea Vi­chea’s murder. He maintains that he is innocent.

A Tuol Kok district police official said that Suong Sokha had been arrested for a 2002 robbery. He said police had a warrant for him issued Monday by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Suong Sokha’s father, Fun­cinpec-aligned RCAF Colonel Suong Sopul, said he did not know if the arrest was related to the Chea Vichea investigation.

“I don’t know why they arrested him,” he said. “If he was in a robbery back at that time, why didn’t they arrest him then?”

Municipal Police Chief Suon Chheangly said Wednesday that the US Embassy became involved in the murder investigation on Tuesday.

“The Americans worked with [Municipal Deputy Police Chief] Heng Pov on the investigation,” Suon Chheangly said.

He declined to elaborate on the cooperation, calling it an internal issue.

US Embassy spokesman David Gainer said he could not yet comment on his government’s involvement in the investigation.

In a Feb 2 interview, US Ambassador Charles Ray said that the police investigation had been “professional and proper” thus far and that it was premature to label Chea Vichea’s killing as political.

Alliance of Democrats officials have called the killing politically motivated and the investigation farcical. On Sunday, King Norodom Sihanouk mocked the police efforts on his Web site.

Also on Sunday, residents of Village 6 in Prey Veng province’s Peam Ro district provided Born Samnang, 23, another suspect detained for Chea Vichea’s murder, with an alibi.

The villagers, including the suspect’s girlfriend and her mother, said that Born Samnang had arrived at their village on Jan 20 to celebrate the Chinese New Year. He did not leave until police took him away on Jan 27, they said.

Chea Vichea was shot and killed at a Phnom Penh newsstand on the morning of Jan 22.

On Monday, the day The Cambodia Daily reported the testimonies from Village 6, police went there and took away Born Samnang’s girlfriend, Vieng Thi Hong, 20, and her mother, Nguyen Thi Ngoeun, 36.

On Monday night, Amnesty International issued an urgent statement of concern for the women’s safety.

According to a source close to the case, police officers brought the two women to Phnom Penh and released them the same night. The women are safe and now staying at an undisclosed location, the source said.

Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and head of the government’s human rights commission, said Wednesday he was unaware of the Amnesty International statement and of police apprehending the people who provided Born Samnang’s alibi.

Phnom Penh’s police chief Suon Chheangly also said he could not comment on the two women being taken from their home.

“I do not know well about the women. We are cooperating with all of the witnesses and we appeal to the witnesses to cooperate with the police, and we are ensuring security for them,” he said.

According to a human rights worker, who asked not to be named, the mothers of Born Samnang and the second detained suspect, Sok Sam Oeun, visited their sons at PJ prison on Tuesday and reported that the men are in good health.

Born Samnang’s mother, Nun Kimsrei, confirmed the rights worker’s report on Wednesday.

Born Samnang “is healthy. He is okay,” she said. “I could not ask him any questions because police were there and I felt shocked and sorry” to see him in prison, she said.

(Reported by Saing Soenthrith, Phann Ana, Lor Chandara and Porter Barron)

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