The Ratanakkiri Provincial Court yesterday charged a military police captain and his wife with the murder of journalist Hang Serei Odom, officials said.
Hang Serei Odom, who worked for the Virakchun Khmer Daily newspaper, was found dead in the trunk of his car on Tuesday. He had been hacked to death. The week before, Hang Serei Odom had reported on the alleged involvement of military police in the province’s illegal timber trade.
“We charged Mr. An Bunheng and his wife [Sim Vy] with the premeditated murder of the journalist and decided to remand them in pretrial detention at the provincial prison,” Deputy Provincial Prosecutor Chea Sopheak said.
Police apprehended Mr. Bunheng on Thursday at military police headquarters after searching his house, from which the family ran a karaoke parlor. Ms. Vy was detained the same day.
Police have claimed to have found evidence that the murder took place at the karaoke parlor, which Ms. Vy managed, including a blood-soaked blanket.
Police are also thought to have questioned other military police officials in the case but have declined to confirm.
“I can’t talk about others involved in the case,” said Phen Dina, deputy provincial police chief.
A September 6 article in the Virakchun Khmer Daily by the slain journalist outlined the alleged role of a military police official, who is the son of a provincial military police commander, in the local illegal logging trade.
The son was reportedly seen with Hang Serei Odom on the night of his death, though police have declined to confirm reports that he was briefly detained and questioned over the death.
“I heard the son of the military police [commander] was called to answer the police. But on Friday, the police decided to release him,” said Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc. “The police are not saying anything about this.”
“We are happy with the court” for charging the two suspects, Mr. Bonnar added, “but we want the authorities to continue investigating and uncover the ringleaders.”
Police say they have found bloodied items at the suspects’ property along with records of a call from Mr. Bunheng’s mobile phone to the reporter’s phone at about the time he went missing.
The suspects’ lawyer, Tep Monycheath, said that the prosecutor did not have enough evidence to charge his clients with premeditated murder.
“I will find evidence to defend my client,” Mr. Monycheath said.
Hang Serei Odom’s wife, Im Chanthy, welcomed the charges and said she was planning to file a complaint today at the court asking for $10,000 in compensation.
“I lost my husband and I’m seven months pregnant,” she said. “I don’t have money to feed my child when he is born.”
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