Three Former Monks Convicted in 2009 Murder of Student at Pagoda

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday convicted two former monks and a novice monk for complicity in the 2009 murder of a university student and sentenced them each to 10 years in prison.

Presiding Judge Suos Sam Ath also ordered the men-former monks Vann Socheat, 19, and Nhim Vuthy, 20, and novice Chim Pros, 24-to pay a total of 30,000,000 riel, about $7,000, in compensation to the victim’s family.

“Although the three of them did not commit the murder directly, they did collude with the doer to kill the victim,” he said.

During the hearing, the three men denied any role in the Oct 23, 2009, murder of 25-year-old Vet Virak in Meanchey district’s Wat Stung Meanchey. The men said they were drinking together at the pagoda that night with the murderer, another monk identified only as Phea, when the monk started accusing the student of having insulted his mother.

“I drank the palm juice with monk Phea, but Phea left the house and carried a piece of wood and a knife and called on a few of his friends to fight the victim,” Mr Socheat said.

“I did not fight the victim, but I know the case because Phea told me that the victim cursed his mother,” Mr Vuthy added.

Khiev Sepphan, lawyer for the victim’s family, insisted during the hearing that the three men had participated in the fatal attack on Mr Virak and demanded $10,000 in compensation.

The lawyer for the three men, Heng Sothea, maintained their innocence.

“I think the judge ought to reinvestigate the case to find the truth,” he said. “If my clients did the crime, the punishment is very light. But if they did not do it, it is not justice for my clients.”

Deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot thought the sentence was light because the men were monks and confessed to drinking palm juice with the murderer.

“They ought to get 12 years,” he said.

As for Phea, the prosecutor said district police were still investigating the case but had yet to request a warrant for the arrest of the missing monk, who fled after the murder.

Contacted yesterday evening, Meanchey district police chief Hy Narin said that he could not recall any details of the case because the murder had happened long ago.

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