Shortly before nightfall Monday, police arrived in Prey Veng province’s Village 6, and took away the girlfriend of Chea Vichea’s accused killer, Born Samnang, and her mother, human rights officials and a neighbor reported by telephone.
The two women, along with numerous neighbors, had vouched for Born Samnang’s innocence on Sunday, saying that he was celebrating Chinese New Year in their village just south of the Neak Leoung ferry crossing, when Chea Vichea was shot.
Gueng Thihong, 20, and her mother Gueng Thinhieng, 36, alleged that Born Samnang remained in the village from Jan 20 until Jan 27, when police took him away.
Chea Vichea, union leader and Sam Rainsy Party activist, was shot three times at close range near Phnom Penh’s Wat Langka on the morning of Jan 22.
Prey Veng provincial police and Ream Po district police said on Monday they knew nothing of the reports that the two women had been taken from their home. Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Suon Chheangly declined to comment.
Chan Yaran, police chief of Tuol Kok district in Phnom Penh where Born Samnang was a resident, dismissed claims by rights workers that the two women would probably be taken to his station.
“No one is being sent to Tuol Kok headquarters from Prey Veng. It is not true,” he said.
Heading the investigation into Chea Vichea’s killing, Municipal Deputy Police Chief Heng Pov on Sunday categorized the testimonies of the Village 6 residents as “crazy.” That the suspect had been renounced by his mother, proved him of dubious character, Heng Pov added.
But on Monday, Born Samnang’s mother and other family members corroborated the stories from Village 6.
Nun Kimsrei, 43, said she had renounced her son, Born Samnang, but added that he was innocent of the killing.
“I renounced my son on [Jan] 19. I warned him: ‘Don’t be lazy. Don’t misbehave. Go to school,’” she said.
Nun Kimsrei said she had tried to disown Born Samnang, who had cheated on the sales of medicine for a pharmaceutical company he worked for, so that she would not be held responsible for the company’s lost profits.
She said her son had pocketed some of each month’s profits. He covered himself at the end of each month by selling more medicine than he had been allotted for that time period.
But when the company’s annual sales report was assembled, Born Samnang’s account was $5,000 short, Nun Kimsrei said.
To make the declaration of renouncing her son official, Nun Kimsrei went to the Boeung Kak II commune office to fill out forms. She said she explained her reasons for rejecting Born Samnang, but the clerk told her that stealing from an employer was not enough reason to renounce a child.
Nun Kimsrei said the clerk then suggested that allegations of gang collusion and illicit drug use would be stronger. Those charges have now been included in the document that bears the mother’s red thumbprint.
When the alleged trumped-up charges were filed with the commune authorities, it included two pictures of Born Samnang.
Nun Kimsrei, surrounded by other sons and a nephew on Monday, said police visited her home on Jan 27.
They demanded two more photos and told Born Samnang’s cousin, Kun Sokhoeun, 23, to show them his cousin’s hangouts.
“The police said they wanted to educate Samnang about being renounced,” Kun Sokhoeun said on Monday.
“Samnang never used a gun. He cannot shoot,” he added.
Motioning to a plastic sack containing a baguette and soup hung on a nail, Nun Kimsrei said that police on Monday morning had turned her, and the food she had brought for her son, away from PJ prison where Born Samnang is held.
“Since he was arrested, police do not allow me to see him,” Nun Kimsrei said. “If he is released, I will stop to renounce him.” (Additional reporting by Thet Sambath)