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Firearms stash at tycoon’s parents

Authorities lay three rifles
Authorities lay three assault rifles on a mat yesterday in Meanchey district after they were allegedly seized during a raid at two properties belonging to Thong Sarath’s parents. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Firearms stash at tycoon’s parents

Police yesterday seized three AK-47 style assault rifles, a pistol and ammunition during raids on properties owned by the parents of fugitive tycoon Thong Sarath, a senior police official said.

Just a day after the Appeal Court denied bail to parents Thong Chamroeun and Keo Sary, pending further investigation into illegal weapons possession charges against the couple, municipal court judge Ly Sokleng led police on five raids that uncovered weapons in two houses in Meanchey district.

“This is our second time searching their properties,” said Phnom Penh deputy police chief Choun Narin, adding that yesterday’s raids were conducted from 9am to 3pm. “In total, we have now found 10 weapons.”

Chamroeun and Sary were arrested and charged with illegal weapons possession early last month as police searched for Sarath – the owner of the Borey 999 developments – who is wanted for allegedly masterminding the murder of fellow businessman Ung Meng Cheu.

Menh Cheu, who like Sarath carried the royally bestowed honorific “oknha”, was gunned down outside a fruit shop on Sihanouk Boulevard in the capital on November 22.

The shooting was caught on a closed-circuit surveillance camera.

Two of Sarath’s bodyguards have also been charged over the murder, while two more have been charged as accomplices.

The suspects have claimed that confessions were forced out of them.

Chim Visal, Meanchey district deputy police chief, said officers also searched two other houses and a business owned by the family yesterday, but found nothing illegal.

Those properties were now being taken care of by other families, he added.

Sokleng, the judge who led the operation, declined to comment on the raids.

Both Narin and Visal declined to comment on whether further charges will be laid or whether the latest discoveries will instead be used to strengthen the existing case against Chamroeun and Sary.

The couple has been in Prey Sar prison since they were charged on December 7, while police have continued to search for their son, who vowed in an online video late last month to return to Cambodia if Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a reinvestigation of the murder charge against him.

“We will keep working to arrest the suspect,” Narin said yesterday.

“I cannot comment on this further now.”

In their failed bid for bail on Tuesday, the couple’s lawyer said Chamroeun was suffering from a liver problem that required regular medical treatment.

“My client is ill. It is more difficult for him in jail. He used to get regularly checked in Vietnam. Now his condition has worsened,” lawyer Sy Satya said.

Prior to being arrested, the couple held a flamboyant press conference in which they questioned the police’s right to investigate their son, due to his status as an okhna.

Following their jailing, Chamroeun and Sary released a letter through their lawyer that transferred the management of their meat products company – Pate 999 – to a number of family associates.

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