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Murder trial, appeals in Sarath case push onward

Thong Chamroeun, the father of jailed businessman Thong Sarath, is escorted into Phnom Penh’s Supreme Court yesterday.
Thong Chamroeun, the father of jailed businessman Thong Sarath, is escorted into Phnom Penh’s Supreme Court yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Murder trial, appeals in Sarath case push onward

A pair of cases connected to the 2014 murder of construction magnate Ung Meng Cheu were heard at both Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the Supreme Court yesterday.

The alleged mastermind of the murder, business rival Thong Sarath, was convicted along with his parents – Thong Chamroeun and Keo Sary – of firearms offences last December after 15 weapons, including four AK-47s, were uncovered at their villas in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon and Meanchey districts.

Yesterday, lawyers for the trio pleaded with the Supreme Court to order a second hearing for those charges at the Court of Appeal, which struck down their initial appeal last December, claiming that, contradictory to police claims, AK-47s were found at neither residence.

While not disputing they had handled the weapons, the parents’ lawyer, Hao Sinath, insisted that only handguns were found at his clients’ home, and that as such, the charge should be reduced from unauthorised holding or transporting of weapons to a lesser charge related to “use of weapons” with a corresponding sentence reduction from two years to 18 months.

Sarath’s lawyer Thlang Pinra said the property where weapons were discovered no longer belonged to Sarath at the time of the raid, as he had transferred ownership of the villa.

Additionally, he also claimed that no rifles were discovered at the premises and there were no eyewitnesses to Sarath using them. Invoking Article 38 of the constitution, which guarantees the benefit of reasonable doubt, Pinra asked that his client’s case be referred back to the Court of Appeal.

The court is due to return its decisions on August 15.

Meanwhile, Sarath’s murder trial continued at Phnom Penh Municipal Court without him in attendance, as he is currently receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.

On the stand yesterday was one of Sarath’s bodyguards and co-accused, Kouy Chanthol. He recanted testimony originally given to the police and investigating judge that implicated himself and former colleagues Seang Veasna and Ly Sao in the murder.

Chanthol claimed that testimony recorded by police was not his own. “I told the police many times, five times, but they did not believe me. I could not read, so I didn’t know what they wrote,” he said.

However, judge Tob Chhun Heng noted that the police report was consistent with testimony Chanthol gave to the investigating judge.

The case is also set to continue on August 15.

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