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Suspects’ wives seek visitation

Thong Sarath’s bodyguards Ly Sao
Thong Sarath’s bodyguards Ly Sao (centre left) and Sieng Veasna (centre right) appear at Phnom Penh Municipal Court escorted by authorities earlier this month. Hong Menea

Suspects’ wives seek visitation

The wives of tycoon Thong Sarath’s bodyguards – who are accused of murdering businessman Ung Meng Cheu on their boss’s orders – say they’re living in fear and have been blocked from seeing their husbands.

Four of Sarath’s bodyguards are currently in detention after being charged with shooting Meng Cheu on November 22.

Their boss, who is also a deputy chief of cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, is accused of masterminding the hit and has fled the country.

Held are alleged gunman Seang Veasna, 44, and driver Ly Sao, 43, as well as Meas Sambath, 27, and Kouy Chanthol, 29, who are accused of being on another motorbike involved in the assassination.

Yesterday, the wives of three of the men waited at the courthouse expecting to see Veasna and Sao when they were brought in for questioning, only to be told the case was delayed.

“We three wanted to meet our husbands, but no one has allowed us,” Long Dany, wife of Ly Sao, said.

Dany speculated that Veasna’s wife, the only partner so far allowed a visit, might have been permitted because the alleged gunman had reportedly confessed to the crime.

At the time the men were charged, police said all the suspects had admitted to killing Meng Cheu, but the men have since told reporters their confessions were coerced.

Pok San, wife of Kouy Chanthol, said she had heard that both Veasna and her husband had been threatened and forced to confess. She added her family’s life had become difficult.

“Fewer neighbours contact us, and I do not want to go out in public too often,” she said.

Sambath’s wife, Nop Lida, dismissed rumours of the suspects receiving a payment for the hit. “We are innocent,” she said.

Kea Eav, a lawyer hired by Sarath, said the men’s questioning had been delayed because the judge was busy.

He said he would request the judge to further probe the confessions as well as video evidence that shows Meng Cheu being shot six times outside a fruit shop in Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, police said they couldn’t verify reports that Sarath owed Meng Cheu about $300,000.

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