Municipal police arrested a nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen early Tuesday in connection with a much-publicized car crash and subsequent shooting last month that left three dead and four injured.
Nhim Sophea, 22, was charged with traffic violations and the premeditated killing of witnesses in the Oct 27 incident near Olympic Stadium.
Penal Police apprehended a second nephew of the premier, Nhim Chantana, also known as Nhim Pov and Hun Pov, later Tuesday morning and detained him for questioning, police and a court official said.
Almost one month ago, police arrested Than Chamroeun, the 23-year-old son of a Phnom Penh gold dealer, on identical charges.
Municipal Court issued arrest warrants Oct 29 for four other suspects, including Nhim Sophea and Nhim Pov.
Speaking at a Tuesday morning news conference, Municipal Police Deputy Chief Heng Pov said his officers caught up with Nhim Sophea at around 2:30 am on National Route 6A in Russei Keo district, as the suspect was returning from a restaurant on Chroy Changva peninsula.
“Than Chamroeun said that Nhim Sophea was the hit man who shot at the victims, but Nhim Sophea denied that he was the shooter. Instead, he said his friend who is the owner of the car [Than Chamroeun] did the shooting,” Heng Pov told reporters.
Heng Pov also said the court has ordered the other suspects in the case to turn themselves in.
Heng Pov then listed other unsolved violent crimes, including the attack on popular singer Touch Srey Nich, the killing of Ta Prohm radio journalist Chuor Chetharith and the attack on Okhna Saing Rachana, who was shot in his vehicle last month.
“All three cases we are working hard to investigate,” Heng Pov said. He added that police had identified suspects in the attack on Saing Rachana and were seeking warrants for their arrest.
Asked if he had sought the premier’s permission to arrest Nhim Sophea, Heng Pov said, “I did not get any approval from Prime Minister Hun Sen, because, most importantly, I try to comply with the law.”
Investigating Judge Hing Thirith said Tuesday afternoon that Nhim Sophea was being detained, but he did not know where.
The judge said that Nhim Pov, 20, is being questioned, “and I am considering this case.”
The car wreck that led to the gunfire occurred as four vehicles sped down Sihanouk Boulevard after leaving a celebration at the home of a high-ranking official, investigators said at the time.
One of the vehicles, a Toyota Corona, plowed into a parked truck near the Olympic Stadium. Long Mao, a 19-year-old coconut vendor, was killed, and his brother, 20-year-old Sun Lai, suffered severe head injuries.
One of the men from the convoy then shouted threats at onlookers before firing on them with an AK-47, killing an 18-year-old woman and a 40-year-old man, police and witnesses said.
Nhim Sophea and Nhim Pov are the sons of Hun Sen’s sister, Hun Sinath. Her husband is Nhim Chantara, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former ambassador to Burma.
Nephews of Hun Sen have been suspected of several violent incidents in the past. Those arrested have been released promptly on promises of good behavior or lack of evidence.