Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-Takeo governor charged with murder in death of mistress

Ex-Takeo governor charged with murder in death of mistress

Former Takeo Governor Lay Vannak leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in a police vehicle on Tuesday. Vannak and his brother were charged with murder in the death of a National Assembly staffer with whom Vannak was romantically involved.
Former Takeo Governor Lay Vannak leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in a police vehicle on Tuesday. Vannak and his brother were charged with murder in the death of a National Assembly staffer with whom Vannak was romantically involved. Pha Lina

Ex-Takeo governor charged with murder in death of mistress

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday charged former Takeo Governor Lay Vannak and his brother, provincial Deputy Police Chief Lay Narith, with murder in the death of a National Assembly staffer with whom Vannak was having an affair.

Court spokesman Ly Sophanna confirmed that two others – Choem Vuth, the husband of the victim’s maid, and Men Sakmay, Vannak’s driver – were charged with “concealment of evidence”, which carries a sentence of between one and three years.

Murder is punishable by 10 to 15 years in prison, and can carry a life sentence if found to be premeditated.

It was unclear whether the two other suspects arrested on Saturday – Vuth’s wife, Chan Ry, and Narith’s driver, Tak Ratana – will be charged or released.

Chev Sovathana, aged 36, was found hanged in her Takeo home in January in what police originally ruled a suicide.

However, after the family raised suspicions to the authorities, Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng ordered the National Police to reinvestigate, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak.

Sopheak said authorities agreed with Sovathana’s relatives that her death was suspicious, citing the nature of injuries on her body and the lack of blood pooling in her fingertips.

“The investigation was finished too quickly, and he is a governor, so we felt suspicious,” Sopheak said. “They took the body away very quickly.”

Sopheak said that Sakmay, Vannak’s driver, told police that Vannak had ordered him to hang Sovathana’s body to make it look like a suicide. Vannak and his brother continued to deny any involvement in her death during questioning, he said.

Security guards outside the gated community where Sovathana’s parents live turned away reporters Monday.

Sovathana, who emceed events for the National Assembly, was an active CPP Youth member and mother of three. Her father is a retired government official, Sopheak said.

Vannak’s wife, Sou Socheata, hung up on a reporter yesterday. Socheata, a deputy prosecutor at Kandal provincial court, is the daughter of the former Takeo Governor Sou Phirin, who is now a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers.

The couple has three young children.

Shortly before his arrest Sunday afternoon, Vannak admitted to a yearlong affair with Sovathana but insisted she had killed herself, posting photos of her in what he said was a Calmette Hospital room after a suicide attempt in 2016.

However, a Calmette staffer said “no such person” had received treatment there and that a doctor pictured in the photo with Sovathana was not a staff member at the hospital.

Sophanna said all four defendants were sent to prison for pre-trial detention.

Additional reporting by Daphne Chen

This version corrects the byline.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of