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Bodyguard maintains innocence in Sarath trial hearing

Thong Sarath’s former bodyguards Kouy Chanthol (left) and Meas Sambath (centre) leave the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after questioning.
Thong Sarath’s former bodyguards Kouy Chanthol (left) and Meas Sambath (centre) leave the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after questioning. Pha Lina

Bodyguard maintains innocence in Sarath trial hearing

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday continued the trial of disgraced tycoon Thong Sarath and five of his bodyguards, who stand accused of orchestrating and carrying out the November 2014 murder of business rival Ung Meng Cheu.

Yesterday’s hearing focused on the testimony of bodyguard Mean Sambath, who has been charged as an accomplice in the case after allegedly tailing the victim the night of the shooting, but has denied his involvement. Sarath remained absent from the hearing yesterday, with his lawyers citing health reasons.

“I never heard of tycoon Ung Meng Cheu. My neighbour just showed me the video [of the killing] on the 23rd [of November],” Sambath said yesterday, referring to CCTV footage showing Meng Cheu being gunned down that circulated after the murder.

Like co-defendant Kouy Chanthol, who maintained his innocence in previous hearings, Sambath said that on November 22, suspected gunman Sean Veasna was absent from work.

That evening, co-accused Ly Sao – who died in pre-trial detention – went out with Sarath’s brother, though Sambath said he did not know when he returned. The fifth alleged co-conspirator is Chhun Chetra.

Under questioning from the judges, Sambath also testified that he could not identify the gunman and getaway driver in the CCTV footage.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court yesterday upheld the two-and-a-half-year illegal weapons possession sentences handed down to Sarath’s parents – Thong Chamroeun and Keo Sary – last year. The weapons were found during searches of the couple’s properties during the manhunt for their son.

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