PHNOM Penh Municipal Court yesterday sentenced and convicted two men, including a military official, to 18 years in prison after finding them guilty of the pre-meditated murder of a Kampong Cham woman.
Military official An Sophoeun, 35, and his accomplice Meng Ly, 27, were arrested in April after spiking the woman’s drink, beating her to death, stealing her vehicle and disposing of her body in Preah Vihear province on March 14.
Vietnamese national Din Yong Dave, 53, was also arrested and charged with receiving stolen goods, after buying the woman’s car from An Sophoeun for US$5,000. Presiding judge Kor Vandy also sentenced him to two years in prison for his part in the crime.
He also ordered the three men to jointly pay compensation of 100 million riels (about $25,000) to the victim’s mother, who initially requested $100,000.
Bun Kong, a lawyer representing An Sophoeun and Meng Ly, said yesterday that the sentence was “acceptable” since his clients had confessed to the killing.
“They constantly blamed each other, both saying that they did not mastermind the killing,” he said yesterday.
“The sentence is lighter than what is in the penal code. It depends on my clients whether or not they would like me to appeal the conviction.”
During a hearing on December 6, An Sophoeun pled guilty to the charge of pre-meditated murder, prompting his lawyer to seek the minimum sentence. At a hearing a month earlier, he denied the charges.
An Sophoeun yesterday told the court he and the victim both lived in the same of area of Kampong Cham province’s Prey Chhor district and had both been involved in a logging business in the five months prior to her killing.
He testified that he decided to murder the woman after she allegedly failed to repay $10,000 that she borrowed from him in connection with their wood business.
“I called the victim to meet at a local restaurant at about 6 pm on March 14 at Prek Leap commune in the suburb of [Phnom Penh] to talk about the logging business, and I put about 10 sleeping pills in her ABC stout glass,” An Sophoeun said.
“We then left from the restaurant and drove for about four or five hours to Preah Vihear province. I was the driver of her mini Lexus car while Meng Ly sat in the back with the victim and beat her with a tyre lever,” he added.
An Sophoeun denied raping the victim, despite court officials saying that her underwear had been removed before her body was dumped in the forest.
“I didn’t rape her, I did nothing besides our plot of poisoning and beating her to death to steal her car to sell it to a Vietnamese man for $5000,” he said.