Police in Kampong Cham province’s Stung Trang district are holding a 33-year-old suspect accused of murdering and robbing his 7-year-old neighbour for a gold chain.
Suspect Houng Bunthein was arrested Friday, after victim Kong Piseth’s body was found floating in a creek with a cord wrapped around his neck, James McCabe, operations manager at the Phnom Penh-based Child Protection Unit (CPU) said yesterday.
“[Bunthein’s] initial comments were he was angry at the child because he hit his child,” McCabe said yesterday.
But according to deputy district police chief Kheng Silon, it was later determined that Bunthein does not have any children, but the victim had gotten into a fight with his nephew, who calls Bunthein “papa”.
However, McCabe said he believed the motivation for the murder was a gold necklace the victim wore, which weighed about three grams and, McCabe estimated, is worth about $200. Police later found Piseth’s jewellery, which was taken from him, at Bunthein’s house.
Piseth’s mother first became worried about her son at about 12:30pm on Friday, when she called for him, and he did not come, McCabe said. While looking for her son, the boy’s mother asked Bunthein, her next-door neighbour, if he had seen him.
Bunthein told her he had not.
At about 5:30pm that evening, McCabe said, villagers found the boy’s body floating in a creek, and alerted local police. CPU officials arrived in the village the next morning to assist in the investigation.
Authorities determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation and drowning, McCabe said. However, Silon said Piseth was dead before he was thrown into the water.
When he was first brought in for questioning Friday, Bunthein was uncooperative, McCabe said. But when authorities established that Piseth’s necklace was at his home, he reportedly confessed to the murder.
“Based on what the suspect said, he killed the boy, because the boy got into a conflict with his nephew,” Silon said. “His nephew was the boy’s friend, but the boy hit his nephew on the back and the suspect got angry; so he killed the boy.”
Silon yesterday was unsure when Bunthein will be charged in court.