Major General Thong Sarath, who stands charged with masterminding the assassination of a businessman in November, appeared for the first time with his parents at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday as their trial for illegal weapons possession got underway.
The charges were laid against the group—including a bodyguard who remains at large—in December after police discovered a cache of weapons during raids of two of the family’s homes as part of their investigation into the murder of tycoon Ung Meng Chue.
Maj. Gen. Sarath is accused of hiring his bodyguards, five of whom remain in provisional detention, to carry out the hit.
Presiding Judge Khy Chhai said that the police raids turned up 11 weapons, nine of which were not licensed. The two licensed weapons belonged to the parents, a court clerk said.
Keo Sary, Maj. Gen. Sarath’s mother, said some of the weapons belonged to her son’s bodyguards, including Taing Sok, who remains at large, and that they were being kept at the two homes.
“The bodyguards, they bought [the guns] themselves and they just kept [them] with us,” Ms. Sary said, adding that she assumed they were legal.
Ms. Sary added that she and her husband, Thong Chamroeun, had a legal right to possess weapons because they are members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
“Those weapons were used to protect the family and money because oknha and us have a lot of money,” Ms. Sary said, using an honorific to refer to her son.
Maj. Gen. Sarath said that some of his bodyguards were also RCAF soldiers or military police, giving them the right to possess weapons. He added that he also had the right to carry a gun.
“I suggest the court drop the charges against me because I did not commit the crime,” he said.
Deputy prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth said the court had enough evidence to convict Maj. Gen. Sarath, his parents and Mr. Sok with illegal weapons possession.
“Based on the answers of the accused, which are not correct, the court has enough evidence to inculpate them,” he said.
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