Three on Trial for Murder of Fisheries Official

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried a married couple and their 28-year-old son over their alleged involvement in the 2008 killing of a Fisheries Administration chief in Kompong Thom province who was beaten to death in his office. The hearing was attended by many senior Fisheries Administration officials.

Chhum Sophea, 52, his wife Meach Sithol, 50, and their son, Chhum Sophearith, who worked at the victim’s office, were arrested and charged shortly after the murder. Two other charged people, Kith Hok Keang, 33, and Phath Phay, 51, did not appear at the hearing. Mr Phay is free on bail in Kompong Thom, while Mr Hok Keang is on the lam.

Ek Heng, the 38-year-old chief of the Fisheries Administration in Kompong Thom, was found hacked to death in his office on Dec 22, 2008.

During the hearing, the three defendants denied killing Ek Heng and said they were not at the scene of the crime. Ms Sithol told the judge that she had been in Siem Reap province on the day of the murder, while Mr Sophea claimed he was 120 km away from the crime scene and Mr Sophearith said he had been in his own office at the time.

However, witnesses who worked at the fisheries office claimed they saw Ms Sithol at the office on the morning of the murder.

Deputy prosecutor Chea Meth said that in addition to the witness testimony, a police investigation had uncovered evidence to show that Ms Sithol had been at the office, including information from a driver Mr Sophearith used that day.

“They really had a purpose to kill the victim, so I am still holding them to the charge of intentional murder,” Mr Meth said.

But the defendants’ lawyer, Teng Vannarith, said that no eyewitness had seen his clients commit the murder.

“No one saw my clients with a direct eye. They just saw them at the scene,” he said.

Presiding Judge Kor Vandy said a verdict in the case would be announced on May 27.


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