Police Arrested in 2003 Slaying of City Judge

Two Phnom Penh police officers were arrested on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in the April 2003 slaying of municipal court Judge Sok Sethamony, deputy Interior Ministry penal police chief Mok Chito said Thursday.

Mok Chito identified the officers as Hang Vutha and Oum Samkheng, thought he did not know their rank or police units.

“Hang Vutha and Oum Samkheng were arrested yesterday by the military police,” Mok Chito said. He declined further comment.

Interior Ministry Penal Police Chief Muong Khim confirmed that Oum Samkheng, 30, worked in the municipal penal police department prior to his arrest.

The second suspect, Hang Vutha, is believed to be the brother of Municipal Criminal Section deputy police chief Hang Vuthy, who was detained last week with Prampi Makara district penal police chief Sao Mary on unspecified charges.

Six other municipal police officers were arrested on Saturday and detained in Prey Sar prison for allegedly beating to death a woman in police custody.

Deputy National Police Commissioner Sok Phal declined to comment on the most recent arrests of city police officials for allegedly gunning down a judge. “This case is in the hands of the [military police],” he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak also declined to comment on the arrests.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun, who conducted the raids on the suspects’ homes, declined to reveal details of the case on Thursday.

“It will be a long investigation moving forward,” Sok Roeun said.

“The investigation is fragile,” he said without elaborating.

Sok Sethamony was killed on the morning of April 23, 2003, when two men on a motorcycle, both wearing helmets, pulled alongside his vehicle at a traffic light on Sihanouk Boulevard. The passenger shot him four times with a K-59 pistol through his car door window.

Three men were subsequently arrested for the crime, but were later released by the court, which cited a lack of evidence. Authorities alleged at the time that the three were members of the anti-government Cambodian Freedom Fighters, who staged an attack on Phnom Penh in 2000.

Sok Sethamony was the presiding judge at the 2001 trials of CFF members for involvement in the 2000 attack.

National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha, whose officers carried out the arrests, declined comment on the case Thursday.

Deputy National Military Police Commander Vong Pisen also declined to reveal any details of the case.

“The work is not finished yet,” Vong Pisen said. “So wait until it is finished and you will know.”

The two new arrests bring the total number of police officials arrested so far to 10.

The six officers jailed on Saturday for allegedly beating a woman to death are: Municipal Minor Crime Police Chief Hong Setha, his deputy Ly Rasy, Minor Crime Criminal Section Chief Sim Sotha and his deputies Thon Chanary, Oung Samnang and Chan Vanny. They were charged with intentional killing and sent to Prey Sar prison.

Sok Phal said on Tuesday that although the unprecedented arrests were not linked to the sudden Jan 13 removal of Phnom Penh Municipal Police Commissioner Heng Pov, the ex-commissioner would have to share responsibility for his subordinates’ crimes.

Heng Pov could not be reached for comment on the latest arrests and allegations against members of the city’s police force.

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