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Tycoon sought in brutal attack

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sok Bun, president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association, poses for a photo next to an architectural model earlier this year. Photo supplied

Tycoon sought in brutal attack

A real estate tycoon accused of launching a brutal attack on a well-known TV presenter at a Phnom Penh restaurant is reported to have fled Cambodia after leaked security camera footage of the incident began to circulate on the internet on Wednesday.

A warrant has been issued for local magnate Sok Bun to appear at Phnom Penh Municipal Court and police have confirmed they are seeking his arrest.

The video, taken shortly after 1am on July 2, shows Bun engage in a heated argument with the former Cambodian Television Network host Ek Socheata, better known as Ms Sasa, before dragging her to the floor and repeatedly punching and kicking her in the head.

Sasa is then seen getting back onto her feet, her dress partially torn off, before stumbling and being attacked once more, until a member of staff intervenes to stop the onslaught.

Throughout the incident, one of Bun’s bodyguards can be seen waving a pistol and pointing it at Sasa’s face.

“My friend said he pulled the trigger, but it didn’t work,” Sasa said in an interview on Wednesday.

According to the TV personality, the argument erupted after Bun had repeatedly tried to force her visibly intoxicated Japanese female friend to leave with him.

Sasa said she took the friend to the first floor to save her from his advances and asked Bun to leave, but he refused.

“I watched Sok Bun walking up to the first floor,” she said. “He dragged my friend forcefully until she shouted drunkenly for help.”

In the video, Bun can be seen trying to pull the intoxicated woman from a sofa. Sasa is seen reacting angrily, apparently sparking the ferocious attack by throwing her mobile phone at the entrepreneur as heated words are exchanged.

According to Sasa, the Japanese friend has fled to her homeland for fear of repercussions. Sasa said it was her first encounter with Bun, whose phone was switched off yesterday.

Though Sasa declined to disclose where the assault took place, the Post was able to confirm it was at the Higashiyama restaurant in Tonle Bassac commune.

A source who declined to be named, but who had spoken to members of staff present during the incident, said Sasa was a regular customer, while Bun had never been known to eat there. Yesterday the restaurant remained closed and the phone line was out of service.

A motodop based nearby, who also declined to be named, said it had been open for business on Wednesday, but that police had visited yesterday morning and apparently spoken to the owners.

Meanwhile, Bun is widely reported to have fled to Singapore, though the director of the Interior Ministry’s Penal Police Department, Sok Khemrin, yesterday said authorities were unable to confirm his whereabouts.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor Ung Bunthorn, who is leading the case, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his clerk, Long Socheat, confirmed a warrant has been issued calling Bun for questioning at the court.

Sok Bun Group is the local partner for a $500 million hotel and residential project dubbed The Bay on the capital’s Chroy Changvar peninsula. Singaporean real estate firm TEHO International, which is leading the project, did not respond to a request for comment, while a representative for The Bay hung up on a reporter yesterday.

In January, Bun was elected president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association (CVEA), a powerful grouping of 41 property companies. Sung Bonna, a former president of the CVEA, said yesterday that Sok Bun remained president of the association for now.

Yet even if Bun is arrested, according to Bunthoeun Soun, a coordinator of the Judicial Reform Project at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, the culture of impunity surrounding elites in Cambodia means he is highly unlikely to be imprisoned.

“When [it is] a rich guy or someone who has power in the country, normally they are not arrested and sent to jail,” he said. “If the government is committed to arresting someone, they can do it, even if they’re out of the country. If they are not committed to arresting them, they won’t do it.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHARLES ROLLET AND TAT OUDOM

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