Suspects Enter Same Pleas

Police took the two suspects in the killing of union leader Chea Vich­ea to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning Wednes­day.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun maintained their previously given pleas of guilt and innocence, respectively, Investigating Judge Hing Thirith said.

Sitting outside the courthouse, awaiting his return to PJ prison, Sok Sam Oeun said, “The judge did not ask anything much. I still keep the same answer. I did not do anything.”

A police officer then silenced the suspect and told reporters that the two men were not to be questioned.

Born Samnang did not reply to further questions.

On Jan 29, police presented the two men to reporters in black hoods, declaring them killers. Once unveiled, the men bawled and professed their innocence. The next day, Born Samnang de­clared himself the trigger man, but Sok Sam Oeun stuck to his story.

Hing Thirith said Wednesday that during the interview Sok Sam Oeun requested that his court-appointed lawyer be replaced.

He said that Born Samnang, who has already had his court-appointed lawyer replaced, asked for additional legal representation.

“I did not ask them much because they requested new lawyers. So when they get new lawyers, I will start to question them again,” Hing Thirith said.

Chum Sovannaly, a lawyer from the NGO Cambodian Defenders Project who is representing Born Samnang, complained Wednes­day that the court only notified him of the questioning on Tues­day, saying it was too short a time for him to prepare adequately.

Chum Sovannaly said that Sok Sam Oeun’s attorney, Nouth Tyto did not attend the meeting.

The investigation into the Jan 22 killing of Chea Vichea has been marked by much criticism, as people have come forward to offer alibis for the two suspects.

(Ad­di­tional reporting by Porter Barron)

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