New York state assemblyman Bill Nojay, who had maintained a colourful connection to Cambodia over the past three decades, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in New York on Friday, according to the Associated Press.
Nojay most recently made headlines in Cambodia in 2014, when he was named along with three others in a fraud case. He was treasurer of Akra Agricultural Partners Inc, which billed itself as designed to rejuvenate Cambodian rice farming by serving as an umbrella brand for cooperative farmers.
Phnom Penh dentist Eng Lykuong invested $1 million in the company in 2012, only for the board of directors to spend the next year avoiding her calls, she said yesterday. The case saw three of the board tried in absentia and the fourth, San Richer, found guilty in late 2014.
Among the board members was Nojay’s old classmate from Columbia University, Sichan Siv, known for being the United States’ ambassador to the UN from 2001 to 2006.
Siv was also responsible for bringing about Nojay’s first visit to Cambodia in the 1980s, according to a 1996 interview with the assemblyman in the Rochester Business Journal.
By the mid-1980s, Siv was the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front’s (KPNLF) ambassador to the UN. The KPNLF was a guerrilla force operating along the Thai border and Siv invited his old classmate to join the cause as its US counsel.
An archived version of Nojay’s biography on his official website said that he crossed the border “without the benefit of a visa but with courtesy of Task Force 80”, referencing an elite border patrol unit of the Thai army.