Ahead of today’s final hearing in the mammoth trial of former military general Thong Sarath and his bodyguards, who are accused of murdering a tycoon on the orders of their boss, a lawyer for the victim’s wife on Thursday requested $60 million in compensation.
Mr. Sarath, a real estate tycoon who has skipped the trial, citing poor health, is accused of ordering his bodyguards to kill Ung Meng Chue, a wealthy businessman who was gunned down while getting out of his SUV at a Phnom Penh fruit shop in November 2014.
Koy Chanthul and Meas Sambath arrive at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Thursday.*(Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)Heang Makara, a lawyer for Taing Kimchheng, the wife of the 53-year-old slain businessman, used his closing argument at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday to call for the heaviest sentence possible to be handed to Mr. Sarath and his four surviving accomplices.
“I ask the judges to sentence the instigator, the ringleader…Mr. Thong Sarath, Seang Veasna and Ly Sao, the perpetrators, and Meas Sambath, Koy Chanthul and Chhun Chetra, the accomplices, the heaviest sentence according to the law,” he said.
“The activities of the perpetrator and the accomplices really are such cruel activities that we cannot accept,” he added.
The lawyer then requested $60 million in compensation from the defendants.
“On behalf of the civil plaintiff, I demand compensation from the instigator, Mr. Thong Sarath, of $50 million,” he said, adding that he requested a further combined $10 million in damages from the bodyguards.
Police concluded that Mr. Veasna drove to the fruit store with an accomplice and shot Ung Meng Chue. CCTV footage of the brazen killing was swiftly uploaded to social media. Mr. Vea*sna, who was charged with premeditated murder, has insisted that he is innocent.
The three other bodyguards—Mr. Chanthul, Mr. Sambath and Mr. Chetra—were charged as accomplices after po*lice claimed they admitted to being lookouts during the murder. The suspected getaway driver, Ly Sao, died of encephalitis in June.
Tuot Lux, a lawyer for Mr. Sarath, said there was no evidence of past conflict between his client and Ung Meng Chue, a construction tycoon, and called on the former military general to be acquitted.
“My client and the victim had no conflict and nothing to gain from each other, directly or indirectly. There was nothing, so there were no reasons to murder,” he said.
Mr. Lux also cited Mr. Sarath’s online protestations of innocence before his arrest in Vietnam, in which he called upon Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene and ensure he receives a fair trial, as additional examples of his noble character.
“He made the announcement through Facebook and this shows his cleanness, without the intention to commit the crime,” he said.
His lawyer also pointed to the fact that the bodyguards were not caught on CCTV at Mr. Sarath’s house in the days leading up to the murder.
Mr. Sarath was imprisoned for 30 months in June 2015 for possessing illegal weapons in connection with the case, while his parents, Keo Sary and Thong Chamroeun, were handed two-year prison sentences for the same offense.
sony@cambodiadaily.com
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