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Vannak gets 13 years for murder of mistress

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Former Takeo provincial governor Lay Vannak (left) is escorted to a van en route to Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Heng Chivoan

Vannak gets 13 years for murder of mistress

Former Takeo provincial governor Lay Vannak was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Monday after he was found guilty by Phnom Penh Municipal Court for killing his mistress Chev Sovathana.

His brother Lay Narith, the former Takeo provincial deputy police chief, was also found guilty of her murder and received a 10-year custodial sentence.

Two others, Men Sakmay, Vannak’s driver, and Choem Vuth, Sovathana’s housekeeper, were each sentenced to two years in prison for concealing evidence.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Presiding Judge Ham Mengse announced Monday’s verdicts.

Samay’s defence lawyer Sorn Kinal told The Post on Monday that his client and the other defendants would appeal.

Neither Kinal nor Vannak’s lawyer Ny Chandy attended Monday’s hearing due to heavy traffic and so could not elaborate on the verdicts.

Vuth’s lawyer Thuy Sokun said he had also not been able to hear the verdicts announced in full due to traffic.

He said he had managed to arrive at court towards the end of the hearing and was able to talk briefly with his client. “I arrived after 10am. My client was saying the decision was unfair and that he wanted to appeal.

“I only managed to get that from him. I saw Men Samay, who was also convicted, crying in court,” Sokun said.

According to their lawyers, the four convicted men were not ordered to pay compensation as a complaint had not been filed by the victim’s family.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Kuch Kimlong could not be reached by The Post for comment.

Sovathana was found hanged in her rented home in Takeo province’s Donkeo town on January 26 last year. It was initially believed to have been suicide, but the Criminal Police Department at the Ministry of Interior later said it was treating the case as a murder.

Vannak was arrested on April 1 last year, a day after he was removed from his position as Takeo provincial governor. He was later dismissed from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Vannak has consistently denied the charge.

On the first day of his trial in January, he claimed he did not kill Sovathana and that she had committed suicide after an argument when he rejected her request to be a “second wife”.

“If you leave my house, you will not see me tomorrow or ever again,” Vanna told the court were Sovathana’s last words to him. “It’s okay if we don’t meet again,” he said he had replied and left.

Vannak said he then went to a park.

Around 15 minutes later, he received a call from Vuth, Sovathana’s housekeeper, saying she had cut herself on the arm.

Minutes later, he received another call from Vuth telling him that Sovathana had hanged herself.

He said he rang his brother Narith to check the scene. Vannak said he headed for Phnom Penh because he did not want his affair to be made public.

He said he told Vuth to dispose of Sovathana’s two phones because they contained pictures of them together.

Sovathana worked at the National Assembly and was head of the Overseas Youth Group.

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