A five-hour search Friday of three villas owned by fugitive Defense Ministry official Thong Sarath, who stands accused of orchestrating the murder of a prominent businessman in Phnom Penh last month, produced evidence that implicates him in the crime, according to police.
On December 5, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Major General Sarath, a deputy cabinet chief at the Defense Ministry, in absentia with ordering four of his bodyguards to assassinate of Shimmex Group chairman Ung Meng Chue, who was shot dead outside a fruit store in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district on November 22. The four bodyguards were charged with carrying out the hit and jailed.
Maj. Gen. Sarath’s whereabouts remain unknown, although police suspect he has fled the country.
Phnom Penh police chief Chuon Sovann said Friday that at about 10 a.m. that morning, Phnom Penh Municipal Court director Ang Mealaktei and deputy municipal police chief Chuon Narin led a search of the general’s villas—located inside two separate gated communities developed by his family’s Borey 999 real estate company—to search for evidence in the case.
Lieutenant General Sovann referred further questions to court officials, who could not be reached.
A statement posted to the National Police’s website on Friday, however, says the operation was a success.
“For a long time, police have been searching for Thong Sarath, but have not arrested him. But now, police have collected a lot of evidence that incriminates the suspect,” the statement says. It does not list the evidence.
A police officer who took part in the search Friday told reporters outside one of the gated communities, in Chak Angre Krom commune, that among the evidence seized were three motorbikes.