A DEFENDANT who stood trial for attempted murder at Phnom Penh municipal court yesterday accused a high-ranking Interior Ministry official of forcing her to confess to the crime during interrogations, as a local rights group announced it would begin monitoring the case.
The court convened for the second day of hearings in a trial involving five suspects including Seng Chenda, the wife of Khaou Chuly, a prominent businessman.
The five stand accused of attempting to murder Suv Chantha, Khaou Chuly’s daughter from a previous wife, on the night of June 13, a plot allegedly masterminded by Seng Chenda. All have pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Suv Chantha is currently married to Sun Chanthol, chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia and a former minister of public works and transport.
Two defendants took the stand yesterday. When questioned yesterday by court prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot, Chan Sokha, who works as a housemaid for Khaou Chuly, repeated claims made during last week’s hearing that her statements to police were made under duress.
Chan Sokha said she was forced to confess “following the order and threats from Excellency Sun Chanthol, telling me to give every answer that police wanted in its report, or my beloved children and I will be
Chan Sokha went on to name names.
“Ministry of Interior police officials, including Mok Chito and Chhim Mony, escorted me to meet Excellency Sun Chanthol at his house,” she alleged. Mok Chito heads the Ministry of Interior’s criminal police.
Chan Sokha accused Sun Chanthol of forcing her to blame Seng Chenda for the plot. “He said I would be okay after my testimonies to the police, or I would be killed if I was stubborn,” she said. “I am innocent and I didn’t commit the crime, I told the truth with God in my heart.”
When contacted yesterday, Mok Chito dismissed the allegations raised in the testimony.
“It depends on the court officials’ considerations of whether or not to believe the testimony and exonerations from a liar that we threatened them to answer, which is impossible in the present society,” he said.
The second defendant to testify in the trial was Neang Sinath, who worked as a maid at Khaou Chuly’s house for about three years and had been working at Sun Chanthol’s house for about two months prior to her arrest.
Neang Sinath also said her statements to police and the court prosecutor were made under duress.
She is accused of carrying out an order from Chan Sokha to poison two guard dogs at the residence and open a bedroom window and a door for Yin Sophearith and Khorn Lak, security guards for one of Khaou Chuly’s companies. Both are also defendants in the case.
“I confessed forcibly at the police station, blaming Chan Sokha,” Neang Sinath said. “Excellency Sun Chanthol … ordered me to answer all of the police’s questions … and said I would be OK, otherwise my husband, children and I would be killed, and I must follow as he is a very influential man in the government.”
In a statement yesterday, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights said it would start monitoring the trial “to assess its fairness against international and Cambodian fair trial standards”.
If convicted, the five defendants face up to life in prison. Presiding Judge Sin Visal said the trial will reconvene January 18.