The Ratanakkiri Provincial Court opened hearings yesterday into the murder of Khmer Hero newspaper journalist Hang Serei Oudom, who was found slain in the trunk of a car last September in O’Chum district.
Chhay Thi, provincial co-ordinator for rights group Adhoc, observed the proceedings in which the judge called several people to the stand, including family members of the victim and the couple charged with the murder.
Thi said presiding judge Y Thavrak sought to “find more evidence” in his line of questioning, but that the journalist’s wife, Im Chanthy, who was expected to provide key testimony into the crime, clammed up.
“She panicked and was weak because her baby is just three months old,” he said.
Oudom’s last article for the paper was about illegal logging, and pointed the finger at King Seanglay, the son of the provincial military police commander. Oudom’s wife has also said that Seanglay and Oudom got into a traffic scrape while driving to Phnom Penh in April.
Yesterday, however, Seanglay told the court he wasn’t driving the car at the time. “He said he was not the driver, but his father’s subordinate drove the car, and he paid the compensation for the broken car,” Thi said.
In an interview, Chanthy insisted that Seanglay was the driver, because “I was in the car that time with my husband.”
According to Thi, Seanglay claimed he could not remember the names of people he met on the night when he was drinking with Oudom in a group, the same night Oudom disappeared.
Seanglay also said that while Oudom’s article had accused him of illegal logging, he had “no revenge” planned.
Police have arrested two acquaintances of Oudom’s, An Bunheng and his wife, Sim Vy, and said a raid on their house uncovered a bloody blanket.