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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Trial in murder over pangolin concludes

Trial in murder over pangolin concludes

The Pursat provincial court yesterday concluded the trial of a soldier accused of the 2009 murder of a man he claimed had sold one of his pangolins, but the court will not announce the verdict until Tuesday.

Deputy provincial prosecutor at the court You Yoeun Ny said the case had become complicated because both the plaintiff and the defendant had frequently changed their stories.

Ou Bunthan, a soldier and illegal wildlife trader, was charged with murder after he accused an employee, Leang Saroeun, of selling the pangolin without permission.

On the night of June 18, 2009, Leang Saroeun’s cottage in Pursat’s Veal Veng district was set on fire while he slept.

Although he managed to escape, he died several days later from severe burns.

The victim’s mother, Iv Lim, said her son had worked for Ou Bunthan in the illegal wildlife trade.

Two days before his death, he had set off to take a pangolin to Pursat town.

However, she said her son had not sold the pangolin for personal profit.

Rather, it had escaped during transport.

Soeng Senkaruna, a monitor for the rights group Licadho, said he had interviewed Leang Saroeun with an audio recorder before his death and the victim had claimed Ou Bunthan was responsible for setting his cottage ablaze.

“The suspect said the sound recording of the victim speaking was fake,” Soeng Senkaruna said.

“I spoke with the victim before he died, and he said Ou Bunthan was the person who burned him.”

Ou Bunthan denied any involvement in the death of Leang Saroeun and asked the court to release him.

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