More than a year after her arrest and repatriation from Thailand, Lay Huong was found guilty yesterday – after a long, bizarre and salacious trial – of orchestrating the attempted rape and murder of the wife and daughter of Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol.
Lay Huong’s common-law husband, tycoon Khaou Phallaboth, was also convicted in absentia “on charges of conspiracy to commit rape and premeditated murder”, according to the verdict, which was read aloud.
“Referring to the verdict dated March 24, 2016, the court decides to sentence Lay Huong, 47, and Khaou Phallaboth to 20 years each in jail, and order that Khaou Phallaboth be arrested and put in jail,” it continued.
“The verdict is announced in front of the accused, and reserves the rights of the accused to appeal according to the law.”
Huong and Phallaboth were accused of conspiring in 2011 with maids Chan Sokha and Neang Sinath, security guard and designated hitman and rapist Sok Lak, and Seng Chenda – the second wife of Phallaboth’s father, businessman Khaou Chuly – to murder and rape Sun Sotha, who is Phallaboth’s sister, and her then-9-year-old daughter.
The group had allegedly planned for Sokha to purchase sleeping pills and hand them off to Sinath, who would use them to tranquilise Chanthol’s guard dogs and then leave open a bedroom window, clearing the way for Lak to execute the rapes and murders. The entire plan, however, was allegedly thwarted because the designated window remained closed.
In the first trial, however, Sokha and Sinath said they had been forced to confess to their involvement after having been threatened by authorities and Chanthol. Sokha said she had been taken to buy sleeping pills by police, who then held the pills as evidence (police in court characterised the outing as a re-enactment).
All four purported co-conspirators have been convicted despite the seeming complete absence of physical evidence. Sokha and Sinath have also since changed their stories, admitting involvement and seeking reduced sentences.
Huong has staunchly maintained her innocence, and continued to do so yesterday, accusing Chanthol of plotting against her.
“I beg Prime Minister Samdech [Hun Sen], the leader of the country. I am his citizen and I am an innocent woman,” she told reporters after leaving the courtroom. “Life is not a game. His Excellency Sun Chanthol prepared [the case] to do harm to me, to make me end up in prison. What a human does, God knows. I would like Samdech Techo to intervene – don’t make my life a game.”
A request for comment from Chanthol was not returned as of press time yesterday.