A military general and adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan has fled the country and is wanted on suspicion of the double murder of his mistress and their daughter, police said yesterday.
Major General Kim Marintha, 57, is suspected of carrying out the premeditated murder of his mistress, Va Dary, 27, and their 6-year-old daughter, Kem Thavichda, on February 15.
A joint task force, which has been investigating the case since mid-March, yesterday raided one of several businesses owned by Marintha, GST Express Bus Company, where investigators believe the murders took place. About 30 police cordoned off the GST premises at 2pm and conducted a lengthy forensic examination of the scene, where weapons believed to have been used in the homicide were later discovered.
Several staff members of the company were held during the raid for questioning.
Police have identified three suspects – Marintha, his son Kim Seng Rithy, and his son-in-law Chea Samnang, 34, who was arrested on Saturday in Preah Sihanouk province. Samnang had fled the capital after getting wind of the investigation and was tracked to Mondulkiri province by police before his arrest near Sihanoukville.
Prosecutor-general Ouk Savuth arrived at the scene about 3:30pm, after which Samnang was ushered into the building for questioning following an earlier appearance at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Brigadier General In Bora, chief of the Ministry of Interior’s Penal Police Department, said Marintha had fled and police were seeking his arrest.
“Our penal police forces now are working hard on this case. He has escaped, and our police are searching for him,” he said.
On March 20, the badly decomposed bodies of Dary and Thavichda were found dumped in scrub land near Pech Nil in Kampong Speu province’s Phnom Sroch district.
“As a result of the four-month investigation, three suspects have been identified and one has been arrested in connection with the double murder and disposal of the bodies,” the Child Protection Unit (CPU), which helped coordinate the case, said in a statement yesterday.
Captain Bun Thol, a penal police officer at the Ministry of Interior, said Samnang had confessed to helping his father-in-law dispose of the bodies, “which were wrapped in plastic, put inside a big icebox and taken in the tycoon’s Lexus to Pech Nil on March 18”.
Samnang was officially charged yesterday by the municipal court prosecutor with being an “accomplice to an intentional murder”. After visiting the crime scene with police yesterday, Samnang was remanded into the court’s custody for further questioning.
Va Srey Thun, 27, Dary’s sister, spoke yesterday of her shock at seeing the bodies of her sister and niece.
“On February 14, my older sister and her daughter travelled with Oknha Kim Marintha to visit her hometown in Kampong Cham province. She returned back to Phnom Penh the next day,” she said.
“That afternoon, [Marintha] called my mother and told her that my older sister and her daughter had gone to buy glasses in Sorya Mall and had disappeared. Her mobile phone was switched off.
“I was very shocked and almost lost consciousness when I saw their bodies packaged in plastic. I think that it was very, very cruel. I would like to ask police pursuing the killers to give them the strongest punishment under the law,” she said.
On top of his high-level political connections to former Royal Cambodian Armed Forces chief Kim Yan, Marintha boasts substantial business interests in the Kingdom. As well as GST, he is also director of the Rubber of Friendship VC Company, the Arra Best Corporation, and Fataco Corporation.
In 2009, Vietnamese-owned Fataco came under fire for its role in alleged forced drug trials sponsored by the Vietnamese government in Phnom Penh’s Orkas Khnom drug detention centre, where it experimented on drug addicts by giving them doses of its product Bong Sen – a herbal concoction which the firm claims can “cure” addiction.
The trials were later praised by Deputy Prime Minister Kim Yan.
James McCabe, the CPU’s director of operations, said that Marintha had fled the country and local police were working with international policing agencies to bring him to justice.
“The Joint Task Force is utilising the assistance of international policing agencies. Warrants have been issued for the two outstanding suspects,” he said.
“We have evidence that suggests [the murder] was premeditated, because he purchased the black bags and [icebox] in advance.”
Police officers at the scene of yesterday’s raid said Marintha had fled to Thailand. Calls to phones registered to Marintha went unanswered yesterday evening.
“It’s one of the most serious crimes you can commit, the murder of a child,” McCabe said. “But Cambodia is moving forward, and we are committed to bringing all the persons who committed the crime to justice.”
With two of the main suspects in the case on the run, Srey Thun worries that she may be a marked woman.
“I knew the bodies were my older sister and her daughter, because I recognised her clothes and ID card,” she said.
“I am now very concerned about my own safety and security. I am afraid the offenders will hire hit men to kill me.”