Police yesterday said they had ruled out a district police officer as a suspect in the Saturday-night slaying of businessman Ung Meng Cheu in Phnom Penh.
In the aftermath of the tycoon being shot dead on Sihanouk Boulevard, photos emerged online of an officer standing close to the victim’s lifeless body.
That officer, social media users pointed out, resembled the shooter who had earlier fired six bullets into Meng Cheu, chairman of the Shimmex Group, after he climbed out of his Lexus at about 7:15pm.
The man appears to be dressed the same as the shooter shown in closed-circuit television footage. This includes a shirt with sleeves rolled up and an item clipped to his belt or protruding from his pocket.
Chuon Narin, Phnom Penh deputy police chief, admitted there were similarities between the officer and the shooter, but said police had quickly ruled out the officer as a suspect.
“The man is a police officer from Chamkarmon district assigned to protect me when I went to the site,” Narin said. “The [similarity] is the shirt colour. Police have looked closely at his phone cover and ID card [on his belt]. Also, he is only 170 centimetres tall and in his early 20s. The shooter is 175 centimetres and in his late 30s.”
Narin urged Facebook users to stop accusing the police officer, adding that conclusions should be left to the experts.
“We are all trying to catch the suspects. This is not a simple case,” Narin said.
Moments before the shooting, witnesses saw two men pull up on a motorbike as Meng Cheu arrived alone at the fruit shop near Olympic Stadium. The shooter, who fled with his accomplice, did not try to rob the businessman.
A police source who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Meng Cheu’s two bodyguards had been questioned. Narin, however, said they had since been cleared of any involvement.
Meng Cheu’s Shimmex Group is made up of construction, jewellery and import-export companies.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge Keo Mony said yesterday that Meng Cheu – who held the title “oknha” – was due to appear in court on December 8 over a business dispute with another tycoon, Chheang Paksour.
A court official, who requested not to be named, said Paksour had filed a complaint against Meng Cheu over 10 hectares of land worth tens of millions of dollars in the capital’s Sen Sok district.
“Meng Cheu was also involved in other court cases,” he said.
Paksour’s son, Chheang Sovichet, confirmed yesterday that his father was the complainant in one case.
“The dispute is over land in an area near Camko City,” he said. “I know that he [Meng Cheu] is dead, but the complaint will go on. This is all I know.”
Meng Cheu’s lawyer, Ty Kim Srean, said yesterday that she had represented him in a number of court cases, though she would not say how many.
“He always wanted compromise and a peaceful ending, not to cause trouble for any party,” she said. “I think he was a good guy. A lot of people liked him. I did not think anyone wanted to do anything bad to him.”