Former Takeo governor back in court as trial continues

(Phnom Penh) : The Phnom Penh Municipal court on Tuesday again heard the case of former Takeo provincial governor Lay Vannak, accused of killing his mistress Chev Sovathana in January last year.

Tuesday’s hearing, following the trial’s adjournment on January 23, was attended by police from the Ministry of Interior’s criminal department, Presiding Judge Ham Mengse and prosecutor Plang Sophal.

Vannak’s older brother, former provincial deputy police chief Lay Narith, told the court that on January 26 last year, he had asked Men Sakmay, Vannak’s driver, to take him on a motorbike around Donkeo town, Takeo’s provincial capital.

Narith said he then visited his friend Suong Socheat and had dinner at a restaurant. After the meal, Narith said, one of his subordinates called him, informing him that Sovathana had hanged herself at her home.

“I went to the scene, but I could not find it immediately. After a while I found the house. When [inside] I saw town and provincial police officials examining the body, but I did not look at her body closely because I am not an expert in criminal cases.”

“I saw her from a distance, the body hanging in her room with her feet above the floor. I am not involved with the death,” Narith told the judge.

Narith’s friend Socheat told the court that he had been invited to have a meal with Narith, along with Sakmay, his driver.

“Approximately 30 minutes into the meal, Narith told me he had an urgent task and needed to go out. He asked me to wait for him.”

“Lay Narith returned about one hour later and told me his brother’s girlfriend had hanged herself because she had had an argument with [Vannak],” he said.

Sakmay, Narith’s driver, told the court that Vannak had earlier ordered him to take a young woman from a hotel to Vannak’s house. He said that after about 30 minutes, Vannak told him to return the woman to the hotel.

Sakmay said Vannak told him to be careful when taking the woman back to the hotel because Sovathana might find out.

“When I arrived at the hotel, I saw Chev Sovathana’s car was behind mine, and she ordered me to return to Vannak’s house. I told Lay Vannak that Chev Sovathana knew about [the other woman],” he said.

Judge Mengse said that the trial would reconvene on Wednesday.