An investigation into a murder at a casino in Svay Rieng province took a bizarre turn this week when authorities determined that one of the suspects in the case was actually a wealthy Vietnamese woman who had herself been held hostage at the casino for nearly three weeks, police and court officials said on Thursday.
The investigation began Sunday night when police in the border town found Ngueng Yang Yoeng, 42, dead in his hotel room at the New World Casino & Hotel, his back covered in bruises. Officers quickly apprehended four Vietnamese nationals staying in the room next door on suspicion of bludgeoning the man to death.
The victim was identified on Monday by Vietnamese police, who had to dig up the body to do so, as it had been buried by Cambodian police when it began to smell. The suspects were interrogated at the provincial police headquarters the next day.
However, Kim Lay, chief of the provincial force’s serious crimes bureau, said on Thursday that one of the suspects had been identified as a second victim in the case.
Mr. Lay said that when the four suspects were questioned at the Svay Rieng Provincial Court on Wednesday, the woman explained, through a translator, that she had been held hostage in the hotel room after being lured by the other three from her home in Vietnam’s Tay Ninh province to gamble at the New World Casino, only to wager away her savings and fall into debt.
“Ngueng Thi Tienga, the 33-year-old female victim, complained that the three Vietnamese people, including two women, illegally detained her for nearly 20 days while they extorted money” from her family in Vietnam, Mr. Lay said.
Following a second round of questioning on Thursday, the woman was released, while the other three were charged with unlawful confinement and sent to prison to await trial, the bureau chief said. All three are still being investigated over the death of Ngueng Yang Yoeng, but authorities now believed the murder was carried out by a hired hitman, he said, identifying the male suspect as Vin Yang Binh, 27, and the women as Traing Thinhi, 30, and Ngueng Thihiev, 20.
Kong Chankhemarith, chief prosecutor at the provincial court, confirmed the charges against the three, and the release of Ngueng Thi Tienga.
Mr. Chankhemarith also lamented the difficulty of using a translator to interrogate the Vietnamese suspects, explaining that he had perfected the art of obtaining confessions from Khmer speakers.
“We could not use our usual tactics of questioning them,” he said.