Police Attempted to Beat Out a Confession: Tycoon Murder Suspect

A police officer who arrested and interrogated the man accused of murdering a tycoon on the orders of his boss, former military general Thong Sarath, told a court on Tuesday that the suspected gunman admitted to carrying out the slaying after Mr. Sarath promised him a house. The alleged gunman, however, insisted that he never confessed to anything.

cam photo thong sarath channa
Major General Thong Sarath arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday to answer questions over charges of orchestrating the murder of Ung Meng Chue in November. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Sarath, a real estate tycoon who has skipped the trial, is accused of ordering his bodyguards to murder Ung Meng Chue, a wealthy businessman who was shot dead while getting out of his SUV at a Phnom Penh fruit shop in November 2014.

Under questioning by Presiding Judge Top Chhun Heng at the municipal court, Tey Visal, deputy chief of the municipal police’s serious crimes bureau, said Sieng Veasna admitted to gunning down the construction magnate on orders from his boss.

“After being questioned, Veasna said he really committed it and he did it with three other people,” he said, listing bodyguards Koy Chanthul, Meas Sambath and suspected getaway driver Ly Sao, who died of illness while in custody.

“He said that before the incident, Oknha Thorng Sarath promised to give him a house,” he said, adding that Mr. Veasna was not coerced into confessing.

However, Tuot Lux, a lawyer for Mr. Sarath, cast doubt over the officer’s claim that the suspects were not beaten, pointing to injuries apparently sustained by Ly Sao while detained for questioning.

“When you arrested and questioned Ly Sao and Sieng Veasna, did you inspect their health? Why couldn’t Ly Sao walk at that time?” Mr. Lux asked.

“I do not know the reason,” Mr. Visal replied.

Outside the courtroom, Mr. Veasna accused the police of beating him to extract a confession, but said he did not give in to their violent tactics.

“I was beaten up many times at night to confess to killing Ung Meng Chue, but I never confessed,” Mr. Veasna said, adding that Mr. Sarath never ordered a hit.

“I am a soldier. If I committed the murder, I would be brave enough to take responsibility.”

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