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‘Special case’ of top bodyguard

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Chhoeun Chanthan (centre), former head bodyguard for senate president Chea Sim, arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.

Three members of Senate President Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit who were arrested on Saturday have been released, while their chief, Chhoeun Chanthan, was questioned for six hours at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.

Chhoeun Chanthan, who was removed from his post by royal decree on Saturday, shortly after a morning raid by military police on his Phnom Penh villa, is expected to return to the court for further questioning today.

Kheng Tito, national military police spokesman, said yesterday that the three other bodyguards – Pak Sier, Chum Sros, and Pov Meunchan – had “no involvement” with the alleged offences committed by their chief. The three had been living in Chhoeun Chanthan’s house.

“Only Chhoeun Chanthan has been sent to the court on charges of illegal use of weapons, and the three other bodyguards were released on Sunday,” he said.

While no official charges have been brought against Chhoeun Chanthan yet, Kheng Tito, who repeatedly referred to the case as “special”, said that Choeun Chanthan was questioned on three possible offences: illegal possession of weapons, the use of illegal gun licences and forged documents.

“The case of Mr Chhoeun Chanthan is like a special case and the court can add further charges against him if they find more evidence,” he said.

Military police said they had confiscated 12 guns and 1,420 bullets from the raid.

Kheng Tito said Chhouen Chanthan could also be sent to military court for a previous case, but declined to elaborate.

“The case of Mr Chhoeun Chanthan will also be forwarded to the military court for further questioning because he previously committed a military offence [in a different case].”

Kheng Tito added the top bodyguard had been escorted back to military police headquarters after the questioning.

Meas Chanpiseth, who questioned Chhoeun Chantha in his capacity as Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor, declined to comment on the case yesterday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen called out Chhoeun Chanthan, also known as Mao, in a speech last year in which he warned military officials that they would be sacked for corrupt activity.

Chhoeun Chanthan was replaced on Saturday by Yim Leang, who has served in Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit for at least a decade and was promoted to the rank of three-star general.

Yim Leang’s father is Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Li, and his sister, Yim Chhay Lin, is married to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son Hun Many.

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