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Co-defendants claim confession was coerced

Co-defendants claim confession was coerced

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Seng Chenda arrives at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Two co-defendants who reversed their testimony from the appellate court last year pointed their fingers at co-accused Seng Chenda, wife of local tycoon Khaou Chuly, at yesterday’s Supreme Court hearing testifying that Chenda had conspired to murder her stepdaughter Sun Sotha.

The pair, maids Chan Sokha and Neang Sinath – who had once maintained their innocence and said that their confessions had been forced – gave an account in which the wealthy Chenda and fourth co-defendant Sok Lak tried to murder both Sotha – the wife of former transportation minister – and her 9-year-old daughter via a conspiracy that bordered on the Shakespearean.

“Mrs Seng Chenda had been angry with Mrs Sun Sotha, because Sotha had not recognised her as her stepmother, so she prepared a plot to kill her and her youngest daughter,” said Sokha. “She ordered me to check when [Sotha’s husband] Senior Minister Sun Chanthol would not be at home and report to her. She told me to buy sleeping pills and give it to Neang Sinath, Sun Sotha’s attendant, to put them into food for [Sotha’s] dogs to eat.”

“She hired her closest aide, Sok Lak, to go into Sun Sotha’s condo and assassinate her and her youngest daughter while her husband was not at home,” she added.

According to Sokha, who has asked for a reduced sentence, Chenda promised to buy houses for her and Neang Sinath, and give them each US$2,000. Sok Lak, was promised US$5,000.

The plot thickened further when Neang Sinatha testified that she had drugged the dogs and opened doors for Sok Lak not just at Chenda’s behest, but because Sokha had threatened to reveal her affair with her employer if she didn’t help.

“I was afraid that she would tell it to my husband, so I did it,” she said.

Chenda and Sok Lak denied the allegations.

“I had been a wife to my husband, Khaou Chuly, for over 15 years,” said Chenda. “I had loved all his children from his previous wives.”

Chuly told reporters that he belived his wife is innocent. The trial will continue Friday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at [email protected]

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