Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried five men and a woman on charges of premeditated murder and possession of an illegal weapon in October’s fatal shooting of a bakery owner. A verdict is expected at the end of the month.
Men Nob, 25, Ton Vichet, 39, Mon Sokha, 39, Chan Sereyboth, 22, Sorn Savoeun, 22, and Sorn Sorphea, 29, were arrested following the Oct 15, 2010, shooting of Sim Rotha. Rotha died after being shot twice inside his Toyota Land Cruiser in Prampi Makara district. At the time, police suspected the murder was the fallout of an argument with the suspects and not a robbery.
In court, two of the suspects admitted to shooting Mr Rotha but claimed it was in order to steal his car.
“I did the crime with Mr Sereyboth, and the case is not related to the other people because I wanted to rob the victim’s car for myself,” said Mr Savoeun. His testimony was echoed by Mr Sereyboth. According to both men, they intended merely to rob the victim but shot him when he fought back.
Both Ms Sorphea—sister of Mr Savoeun—and her husband, Mr Sokha, denied involvement but admitted to having had an argument with the victim over damage sustained to a house he had rented from them.
“I didn’t order my brother to kill the victim even though my husband and I had a dispute with the victim over a rental contract,” said Ms Sorphea.
Mr Vichet, an assistant to a brigadier general in the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit, said in court he sold a gun to Mr Savoeun at his boss’ behest. The name of the brigadier general was not revealed in court documents or police records.
Deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot said it was clear from the confessions that the murder was intentional. “I request the court to consider whether it is a premeditated murder or a robbery,” he added.
The victim’s wife, Chheak Kuntha, is seeking $400,000 in compensation. “My husband died related to revenge,” said Ms Kuntha.