Friends and family of the two men accused of killing Chea Vichea have been taken
from their homes for questioning by police in the last week, amid reports of an alibi
for one of the suspects.
Suong Sokha, 30, was arrested by police in civilian clothes from his father's house
in the Tuol Kork district of Phnom Penh on February 11.
Sokha's father, Colonel Suong Sopul, said the warrant for his arrest was signed by
Phnom Penh municipal judge Kong Seth on February 9 and linked him to a robbery dating
back to September 17, 2002. Shortly before police took him away Sokha told the Post
he thought Sok Samoeun was not the real killer of Chea Vichea.
Sokha said that if his friend Samoeun had been involved in the shooting he would
not have returned to his residence and lived as normal until police arrested him
six days later.
At a party to celebrate Chinese New Year the night before Vichea's murder, Samoeun,
who was known for exaggerating his wealth, had "no money" said Sokha, despite
police saying the accused killers were paid $1500 before the assassination.
Sokha, a military policeman, said he left Samoeun at about 8am on January 22 to go
to work at the MP headquarters in Toul Kork and returned at 9pm. He could not account
for Samoeun's whereabouts at the time Vichea was shot, about 9:15am, but his sister
told him Samoeun had returned to the house at 11am with food from a party. The Post
could not independently confirm that Samoeun had attended a party on the morning
of January 22.
Samoeun had lived with Sokha since arriving in Phnom Penh six weeks ago. They were
arrested on January 28 with two other men and questioned about the Vichea murder.
Speaking soon after Sokha's arrest on Feburuary 11, Suong Sopul said his son had
been also arrested in 2003 for "doing some illegal business".
Police say Samoeun, 36, and Bourn Samnang, 23, are responsible for the January 22
assassination of Vichea, a prominent union leader who was shot three times from close
range while reading a newspaper near Wat Lanka in Phnom Penh. At a press conference
on January 29 both suspects pleaded their innocence and alleged police beat them
to force their cooperation, but Samnang confessed to the crimes the following day.
Earlier this week, relatives and friends of Bourn Samnang provided an alibi for him.
Residents of Village 6, south of the Neak Leoung ferry crossing in Prey Veng, 60km
from Phnom Penh, told the Cambodia Daily that Samnang was celebrating Chinese New
Year with them from January 20 to 27.
Amnesty International said that Samnang's 20-year old girlfriend, Vieng Thi Hong,
was arrested on February 9 and that they were "gravely concerned for her safety."
Media reports and other human rights observers confirmed that Hong had been taken
from her Prey Veng home on Monday afternoon and went with police to Phnom Penh but
said she had been released at around midnight and is now with her mother at an undisclosed
Heng Pov, deputy police chief, denied that Samnang's girlfriend had been arrested
and said yesterday "it is a rumor." Pov dismissed Samnang's alibi as "crazy",
saying the videotaped confession proved he was guilty.
"If [Bourn Samnang] is a good man, why did his mother renounce him on January
19, 2004? Then he was broke, so on the 22nd he shot Chea Vichea," Pov told the
Samnang's mother, Nun Kimsrey, said she filed documents and photographs with the
Boeung Kak 2 commune office to disown her son in an effort to avoid liability for
money he allegedly cheated from a pharmaceutical company he had worked for.
Samnang and Samoeun remain in custody in Prey Sar prison. No trial date has been
set but investigating judge Hing Thirith said the inquiry was progressing quickly
because the suspects had confessed.
Long Dara, lawyer for Bourn Samnang, said on February 11 that "my client admitted
to killing Chea Vichea [and] as a lawyer I have to defer to my client's will."
But Sum Samneang, secretary general of the trade union Vichea presided over, said
on February 11 that police had not yet found the real killers.
"What the government did was theatre...just for looking good," said Samneang.
"We have to file [a complaint] even if the court cannot find justice for us,
we have to try to find the killers and their backers," said Samneang referring
to a letter of complaint sent to the Phnom Penh municipal court by the Free Trade
Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia on February 10.
Vichea's widow, Chea Kimny, also sent a thumb-printed letter to the court on February
10 asking that
they find and sentence the killers. She requested $50,000 compensation from those