Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Manhunt for tycoon on

Manhunt for tycoon on

Thong Sarath
Tan Sok (left) and Keo Sary (right), the parents of tycoon Thong Sarath, speak at a press conference yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Manhunt for tycoon on

Police stormed into a house in the capital’s Meanchey district last night, detaining the parents of Thong Sarath, a tycoon who earlier in the day went into hiding to escape questioning over the murder of businessman Ung Meng Cheu.

“Sarath is the ringleader in this murder, but he has fled,” said Chhuon Narin, deputy chief of the municipal police . “His parents will be questioned tonight.”

The detainment of Keo Sary, 56, and her husband, Tan Sok, 65, took the tally of people in custody to six, following the arrest of three of Sarath’s bodyguards on Monday and a fourth yesterday morning.

Sarath, president of Meanchey International Investment, cabinet deputy chief at the Ministry of Defence and one-time member of the government’s Brigade 70 military unit, has business interests that include the Borey 999 apartment projects.

In a bizarre press conference just hours before the raid, Sary defended her son from allegations of involvement in Meng Cheu’s slaying on November 22.

Draped in expensive jewellery, boasting about her family’s wealth and even, at one point, counting banknotes, Sary said her son had gone into hiding to escape arrest over a crime he did not commit.

“We certainly never had any conflict with [Meng Cheu] or his family.… We were not involved in his death,” she said, adding that her family would not be concerned with Meng Cheu’s wealth because it was much smaller than theirs.

Police had visited the family yesterday morning and invited Sarath for questioning, she said.

“I [wouldn’t] let my son” go to the police station, Sary added.

Instead, Sary and her husband went to the municipal police headquarters in their son’s place.

There, they said, municipal police chief Chuon Sovann told them that Sarath would be arrested.

“Sovann got very angry,” Sary said. “He strongly hit the table and kept saying ‘Where is the oknha? There must be an arrest’.”

The couple returned home and warned their son, she said.

“We told him to escape,” she said, adding that a tiger is not as strong if it is locked in a cage. “My son is now in hiding; he is staying with a friend.”

Meng Cheu, chairman of the Shimmex Group, was shot outside of a fruit shop on Sihanouk Boulevard after climbing out of his Lexus SUV. The gunman – pictured on camera firing six bullets into his victim – fled with an accomplice on a motorbike.

Keo Sarith, a Phnom Penh police officer, told the Post on Tuesday that two of the bodyguards arrested on Monday have confessed to being involved in the killing and that police had seized what they believed was the murder weapon.

A fourth bodyguard was arrested yesterday.

Sok, Sarath’s father, named the four as Meas Sambath, 44; Seam Veasna, 27; Kuy Chanthol, 29; and Ly Sao, 30.

Sary also used the press conference to question the police’s right to arrest her son, saying that his title of “oknha” – usually bestowed upon wealthy individuals with close ties to the government – made him immune to a normal police investigation.

“Looking down at my son is like looking down at the King,” she said. “The King has signed to promote my son as an oknha. [They] need to pass through the King and the courts also.… If they abuse the law, how can we [do] business?”

During the press conference, Sary and Sok both threatened to file a lawsuit against Sovann and have him fired.

Sovann could not be reached.


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australians protest Asean summit visit by PM Hun Sen

    Hundreds of protesters gathered in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Friday to protest against Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, who claimed to have been gifted millions of dollars by the Australian government ahead of a special Asean summit this weekend. An estimated 300 protesters, the majority of

  • One Australian, one Cambodian killed in explosion at military base

    Updated: 5:20pm, Friday 16 March 2018 An Australian tourist and a Cambodian soldier were killed in an explosion on Thursday afternoon at an army base in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province. The Australian, whom the government initially identified as a technical demining expert in his 40s, and

  • Peeling back layers of prehistory in Battambang

    When the man passed away, he had not yet reached 50. He belonged to a tribe that had settled near the Sangker River in Battambang province, likely cultivating the fields and raising animals. On the side, they hunted for boars, and even turtles, one of which