Rape Suspects Take Back Confessions

Four construction workers on trial for the rape and murder of a karaoke parlor worker in Phnom Penh retracted their confessions during a hearing on Wednesday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Days after the body of Vong Kunthea, 26, was found naked, wrapped in a hammock and dumped in an empty lot in Pur Sen­chey district’s Kakab commune on July 26, six suspects confessed to their involvement in her rape and murder.

During questioning by Pre­siding Judge Keo Mony on Wednesday, four of the men—Mam Van­nan, 20, Chin Navy, 29, Khat Sour and Moeun Khey, both 18—denied assaulting Ms. Kun­thea and claimed they were beaten by Pur Senchey district police during questioning.

Mr. Vannan, Mr. Navy and Mr. Sour also said they were coerced into taking the blame by another defendant, Prey Soklak, a guard at the construction site where they worked.

“He told me to say I brought this woman to have sex with her, so that is what I told the police,” Mr. Vannan said. “He said to confess and then they would release me.”

When questioned by judge Mo­ny about why he had given a false confession, Mr. Vannan said: “I am uneducated, so I believed him.”

Deputy prosecutor Kham So­phary said the six other defendants had blamed Mr. Soklak for the crime, but their testimonies could not be backed up.

Mr. Soklak, 51, who was not arrested and charged in the case until November, also retracted his confession, having denied the accusations made by the other defendants.

Mr. Sophary said there was not enough evidence to prove Mr. Soklak was guilty, but it was up to the judges to decide.

Two other suspects who faced trial in the case last month, Nang Navy and Iem Luch, also retracted their confessions.

Loung Sokha, a lawyer for Mr. Luch, Mr. Sour and Mr. Khey, said the case was complicated and that any decision should be based on evidence, and not simply confessions.

A verdict is set to be an­nounced on July 14.

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