Suspect is believed to be a high-ranking police officer and former employee of disgraced former police chief Heng Pov.
Pheng Phai, behind a towel, is escorted Monday by military police and his brother (front right) from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
OFFICIALS at Phnom Penh Municipal Court said Monday they had detained a third man - understood to be a high-ranking police officer - in connection with the attempted murder of a prominent newspaper editor in 1998.
Two court officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Post that the suspect, Pheng Phai, was arrested by military police. He was interrogated by three investigating judges for several hours Monday, and the court later issued a warrant to detain him in Prey Sar prison.
The officials said Pheng Phai, 38, is a policeman at the Ministry of Interior and was a close associate of former city police chief Heng Pov, who was sentenced in 2006 to 58 years on an array of serious criminal charges. An informed source who requested anonymity told the Post Pheng Phai holds the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In the shooting incident, the editor of Koh Santepheap newspaper, Thong Uy Pang, was shot twice in the shoulder on June 8, 1998, while preparing to pray with his family at the Tuk Thla pagoda in Phnom Penh.
Koh Santepheap was a staunch supporter of then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People's Party (CPP). The attack took place in the run-up to the 1998 election, and Thong Uy Pang said at the time that he felt the attacker was "a political enemy of Hun Sen".
Military police chief Sao Sokha told the Post on Monday that his forces, following a warrant, had arrested Pheng Phai on Saturday and sent him to court for investigation two days later.
Thong Uy Pang on Monday applauded the court for its efforts to resolve the case more than 10 years after the shooting. He said that for as long as Heng Pov had been the city's police chief, the court had ignored his complaints.
"I would like to congratulate the court for seeking justice for me as a victim," he said, adding that since the arrest of former police chief Heng Pov, he had felt confident his case would proceed smoothly.
Thong Uy Pang said the arrest warrant - issued on April 22, 2008 - had named four men as being behind the attempt on his life: Heng Pov and Ly Rasy, who are both in Prey Sar prison; Pheng Phai, who has just joined them; and Heng Veng who is Heng Pov's cousin and is believed to be in hiding.
Mok Chito, director of the penal department at the Ministry of Interior, denied that his forces had ignored the arrest warrant for Pheng Phai. He said the national military police had simply found him first.
According to Mok Chito, Pheng Phai was formerly in the employ of the municipal police and had worked with Heng Pov. "I never saw him working at the Ministry of Interior," he said. "Now the light of justice shines for Thong Uy Pang. This arrest shows that the case is not forgotten by the court and the authorities," he said, adding he was not aware how many more suspects were being sought for the attempted murder.