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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Oknha brutally killed

Police and members of the public look at numbered bullet shells at the scene of a fatal shooting in Phnom Penh
Police and members of the public look at numbered bullet shells at the scene of a fatal shooting in Phnom Penh on Saturday evening. Hong Menea

Oknha brutally killed

A tycoon was shot dead outside a Phnom Penh fruit shop on Saturday evening in a brutal attack captured on a surveillance camera.

Ung Meng Cheu, who held the royally bestowed title “oknha”, was gunned down after pulling up in his Lexus and stepping out onto Sihanouk Boulevard near the Olympic Stadium at about 7:15pm, police and witnesses said.

The businessman, believed to be about 40, was the chairman of the Shimmex Group, a conglomerate that includes construction, jewellery and import-export companies.

Chilling closed-circuit television footage of the slaying posted online shows a man armed with a pistol approach Meng Cheu near the Lour Tech Seng fruit shop.

When confronted, the victim falls over as his attacker fires shots at him.

The victim stands up and makes a desperate plea for the gunman to stop. But the killer keeps firing until his victim again falls to the ground, where he quickly succumbs to his wounds.

Still coming to terms with the violence, Cheng Phet, a security guard for the fruit shop, told the Post at the scene yesterday that he had witnessed two men pull up on a motorbike as Meng Cheu arrived unaccompanied.

“He took three steps out of the car after opening the door,” he said. “The two guys . . . stopped their bike on the corner, about three or four metres from the car, and walked straight to him. The attackers shot him once in the back and five times to the front of the body.”.

Phet said he first thought that the criminals – whom he estimated to be both aged about 30 – were Meng Cheu’s bodyguards.

“But when one of them started shooting, I ran,” he said. “I saw the victim plead for his attacker not to shoot him. But he kept firing then ran to his bike and sped away.”

Police arrived about five minutes later, Phet said.

According to information released by police yesterday, the suspects had driven a Honda motorcycle and shot the victim six times with a pistol.

National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito said late yesterday that police were still trying to establish a motive and identify suspects.

“We suspect this is a case of revenge,” he said, adding that it was difficult to prevent such violence.

People crowd around the entrance to a fruit shop in Phnom Penh where businessman Ung Meng Cheu was gunned down
People crowd around the entrance to a fruit shop in Phnom Penh where businessman Ung Meng Cheu was gunned down Saturday. Hong Menea

“Police cannot predict when incidents like this will happen. Bad guys operate in the dark. We ask people to [inform us] . . . if they think they are in any danger.”

Police were willing to provide the victim’s family extra protection if they request it, Tito added.

In Bora, chief of the Ministry of Interior’s Penal Police Department, declined to comment in detail, saying only that “police are investigating”.

Meng Cheu’s loved ones visited the scene of the shooting yesterday at about 7am, a fruit seller said.

The victim’s son-in-law, who gave his name only as Henry, declined to comment when reached by telephone.

Shimmex’s companies include Seng Hong Heng Import Export, Hong Kong Jewelry, Dough Real Estate and Home Au Fait, according to its website.

Khan Piseth, the financial systems manager at Shimmex, described his boss as generous to all staff and competitors.

“He was never vindictive towards anyone. I don’t know much about his personal life, since he did not tell us much,” he said.

A resident who lives close to Hong Kong Jewelry near Central Market said Meng Cheu and his wife, Tan Kim Chheng, were “very kind and nice to people”.

“I’ve never seen them argue with clients or anyone. I felt so bad when I heard about this.”

Shimmex’s website says that Meng Cheu had helped build schools, pagodas and “other development projects” across Cambodia.

After beginning work at a family hardware business in Battambang, the website adds, Meng Cheu eventually became an oknha, an honourific traditionally given to powerful officials who contribute financially to society.

In 2011, Meng Cheu took Chhin Sokuntheary, also known as “the crocodile grandma”, to court, accusing her of reselling land she had already sold him.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHANE WORRELL AND CHEANG SOKHA

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