The Tbong Khmum Provincial Court has charged with premeditated murder a man who confessed to killing his pregnant wife and two stepsons with a machete earlier this month.
Chraing Phou, 47, was charged on Friday, and could be sentenced to life behind bars if he is found guilty of killing his stepsons Thoeun Theary, 11 and Thoeun Vannak, 17, and his wife Khean Sok Lean, who was two months pregnant.
The April 1 murders followed prolonged abuse in the home, stemming from tensions about money and Sok Lean’s first husband, said Prak Bunann, provincial deputy police chief in charge of crime.
“On the day that he killed them, in the afternoon he drank beer and demanded she provide him with 11 million riel [about $2,750]. When she refused, he got angry and slapped her,” Bunann said. “The two children intervened to protect their mother and hit him, and also scolded him like a dog.”
At midnight, Phou took his machete and slit the throat of the youngest boy first, according to a confession read by Bunann. His older brother woke up and tried to stop Phou, who struck him twice with the blade.
Sok Lean, who was found slumped against the wall, struggled with her husband and tried to grab the machete, but he hacked her several times until she died, Bunann said.
Phou told police he fled the scene for Kampong Cham and asked a friend to send him 1 million riel (about $250), before hiding out in an Oddar Meanchey house near the Thai border, which police surrounded before arresting him on Thursday afternoon.
Seng Thoeun, the boys’ father, said he had tried to provide everything his sons needed.
“I’m very sorry, and I pity my boys,” he said. “If I did not go to visit them, maybe the cruel man would not kill them. But I’m a father – how can I not visit my children?”
James McCabe, of the Child Protection Unit, said the court’s decision was fitting.
“I welcome the charge – it’s appropriate in the circumstances [and] it has the possibility of a life sentence given the gross viciousness and ferocity of the attack,” he said.
Police maintained the premeditated aspect of the crime was clear-cut.
“The man confessed he made a plan for two weeks after the former husband’s visit, and when he planned it, he always brought the machete for sharpening,” Bunann said.
Local officials, meanwhile, were aware of violence in the home prior to the killings but failed to take action against Phou. Just a week before the killings, police had asked Phou to thumbprint a promise to stop the violence towards his wife and to “stop sharpening his machete”.
Additional reporting by Erin Handley