Property tycoon Sok Bun, wanted for the vicious attack of a former TV star, publicly pleaded for his freedom yesterday, pledging to relinquish his “oknha” title and offering his victim $100,000 in compensation, even as Interior Minister Sar Kheng called for his arrest.
Bun has been on the run since images from a security camera in a Phnom Penh restaurant first leaked onto the internet last week, showing him savagely beating Ek Socheata, better known to her fans as Ms Sasa.
With calls for Bun’s arrest mounting, Kheng yesterday weighed in on the issue, warning senior police officials against “obstructing” the search during a meeting at the Interior Ministry.
“If he escapes, it will be an insult against us,” he said. “They would be insulting the prime minister and the police. We cannot accept that.”
As well as giving up his status as an oknha – a title bestowed upon people who make a significant financial contribution to development in Cambodia, usually at least $100,000 – Bun offered Sasa $100,000 in compensation.
The offer was made in a statement released by Bun’s lawyer, which pleads directly to Prime Minister Hun Sen for leniency.
In a separate letter, Bun also resigned as president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association, a real estate industry body, four days after Singaporean firm TEHO International announced he had agreed to step down as director of joint ventures between them and his company.
Those ventures include a $500 million hotel and residential development on the capital’s Chroy Changvar peninsula known as “The Bay,” which TEHO International on Monday said would go ahead.
Late last night a letter was circulated purportedly written by a Dr Mahen Nadarajad of the National Neuroscience Institute in Singapore, who claims Bun has been in his care for “several years”.
In the letter, Nadarajad says Bun “will be unable to travel for a number of months. I believe he has been asked to travel back to Cambodia. I feel that this would be unwise and would be against medical advice.”
In an interview yesterday, Sasa, who had previously rejected an offer of $40,000, similarly slapped down the new offer, comparing the late offer to waiting too long to put water on an out-of-control fire.
She has only recently returned from Thailand after receiving treatment for the injuries sustained during the July 2 attack, which she says was launched as she attempted to stop Bun from dragging her inebriated friend away against her will.
Sasa also welcomed Kheng’s remarks, saying she refused to “let anyone use money to buy” freedom and was intent on seeing Bun punished to the full extent of the law.
She said the Japanese friend who Bun had been harassing has also filed a complaint with authorities, though she is currently in her homeland, having fled out of fear for her personal safety.
Bun has widely been reported to be in Singapore, where he allegedly flew on July 8, a day after the video of the attack began circulating. However, rumours persist that he may in fact be in Phnom Penh.
Director of the Ministry of Interior’s Penal Police Department Sok Khemrin on Monday said Bun’s whereabouts are known, though he declined to give details, while he yesterday said he was awaiting an arrest warrant.
On Monday, opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua sent a letter to Singapore’s Ambassador to Cambodia, Kevin Cheok, calling for cooperation in locating Bun. In an email yesterday, she also joined calls for his financial offers to be rejected.
“He wants to buy justice? He will have to learn that justice is NOT for sale.
We must together say NO to violence against women.” Sochua wrote.
“The world saw his criminal act. The world can be used as witness for SaSa.”
Stella Anastasia, a technical assistant at local rights NGO Adhoc, insisted anything other than jail for Bun would send the wrong message about Cambodia, both to its citizens and to the international community.
“Mr Sok Bun escaping justice would further fuel the idea that anything can be bought in Cambodia, even the right to commit the most horrific crimes.
Not holding him accountable for his actions would come as the umpteenth confirmation that in Cambodia all are equal before the law, with some being more equal than others,” she said.