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Ex-governor denies mistress’ murder

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The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Lay Vannak to 13 years in jail. Heng Chivoan

Ex-governor denies mistress’ murder

In the Appeal Court on Wednesday, Lay Vannak, the former Takeo provincial governor and his brother, Lay Narith, who is a former deputy provincial police chief, on Wednesday denied involvement in the death of Vannak’s mistress Chev Sovathana.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on September 2, last year, sentenced Vannak to 13 years in jail and Narith to 10 years, while Men Sakmay and Choem Vuth were sentenced two years each for hiding evidence under Article 532 of Criminal Code.

Vannak told the judge that the decision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court was an injustice, as they had no part in Sovathana’s murder, claiming she had committed suicide.

His brother Narith, he added, should not even be involved in the case as he had never been to and was unaware of where the victim was found dead.

He said on January 22, 2018, he presided over the closing ceremony of the annual meeting of the provincial department of education.

Afterwards, his driver Men Sakmay drove him to visit a park construction near the provincial Independence Monument and then to Sovathana’s residence.

Therefore, he insisted, he and his driver had been the only ones to visit the house, clearing his brother of any involvement in the alleged murder.

However, when police from the general crime department of the Ministry of Interior questioned witnesses Meng Sakmay, Choem Vuth and Chan Ry, they all reported seeing Narith driving him to the mistress’ address.

Vannak said, “[Narith] did not use violence on Sovathana, so how is he supposed to have killed her?

“If I killed her, let my wife and three children die and when I visit Bokor Mountain, let the spirit of Yeay Mao push my car off the road killing me.

“But if I did not commit the crime, let the ones who gave fake testimony suffer those misfortunes,” he said.

Narith said he did not visit Sovathana’s residence as he was unaware of its location.

The judge then questioned Choeum Vuth and his wife Chan Ry, who both worked in Sovathana’s residence.

Vuth said that on January 22, 2018, he saw Vannak and Meng Sakmay drive to the house and after they left, he saw Sovathana holding a knife threatening to cut her arm.

He said he and his wife managed to take the knife from her to stop her harming herself.

The pair then left, he said, only to return sometime later to check up on Sovathana, but her bedroom door was locked and she could not be found.

He said he suspected she committed suicide so proceeded to the bedroom window to check if he could see Sovathana. He said at this point he saw her hanging in the room.

His wife called Vannak, telling him what they had seen and a policeman arrived with Meng Sakmay and broke into the bedroom, but he did not go near the body under orders from the police.

Three policemen from the ministry’s Criminal Department also appeared at the hearing for questioning.

Touch Tharith, spokesman of the Appeal Court, said that the trial will continue on Thursday.

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