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Ex-Takeo governor arrested in connection with death of National Assemby staffer

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Former Takeo Provincial Governor Lay Vannak poses for a photo with National Assembly staffer Chev Sovathana. Vannak admitted on Saturday to having an affair with Sovathana but denied rumours that he was involved in her suspicious death in January. Facebook

Ex-Takeo governor arrested in connection with death of National Assemby staffer

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Lay Vannak, the recently ousted governor of Takeo province, was arrested Sunday afternoon in connection with the suspicious death of a 36-year-old National Assembly staffer, according to Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak.

Vannak’s arrest is the culmination of days of speculation about the death of Chev Sovathana, who was found hanged in January in what police originally ruled a suicide but are now investigating as a murder.

Vannak's brother, provincial Deputy Police Chief Lay Narith, was taken into custody Saturday in connection with the death, along with four other suspects – Chan Ry, Sovathana’s maid; Choem Vuth, Ry’s husband; Men Sakmay, Vannak’s driver; and Tak Ratana, Narith’s driver. National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith confirmed the five were being questioned Sunday.

In a statement posted to Facebook on Saturday, Vannak admitted to a year-long affair with Sovathana but denied involvement in her death.

"I would like to strongly deny all the accusations that my brother and I killed sister Chev Sovathana," Vannak wrote. "My brother and I made no evil decision to kill her ... I believe the judicial system and our courts will provide justice for me and my older brother."

The former governor insisted that Sovathana had committed suicide after he tried to break off the relationship, and added that he was "not running away from the [ruling Cambodian People's] Party or my country".

Vannak was transferred last week from his post as governor to an unspecified position at the Ministry of Interior without explanation, and officials have not said whether his removal was connected to the murder investigation.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophanna confirmed that prosecutor Sieng Sok issued a summons for Vannak on Sunday.

“The Order to Appear allows the judicial police officer to call for police forces to compel such person to appear before [the judge],” Sophanna said in a message.

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