Final Witnesses Testify in Tycoon’s Lingering Murder Trial

A court on Monday heard the final witnesses in the long-running trial of former military general Thong Sarath and his bodyguards for the 2014 murder of construction tycoon Ung Meng Chue, including two witnesses who identified the gunman from his ivory-colored shirt.

Mr. Sarath, a real estate tycoon who has never attended the trial, citing ill health, is accused of orchestrating the murder of his rival, who was shot six times as he exited his Lexus SUV outside a Phnom Penh fruit shop.

Thong Sarath leaves the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh 2015. (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)

On Monday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court concluded the questioning of 23 witnesses in the case against Mr. Sarath and four bodyguards, including Sieng Veasna, the alleged shooter.

According to police, Mr. Veasna drove to the fruit store with an accomplice and shot Ung Meng Chue. Security footage of the grisly murder was quickly released online. Mr. Vea­sna, who was charged with premeditated murder, has insisted that he is innocent.

Witness Un Lux, who was identified as Mr. Veasna’s friend, previously identified Mr. Veasna as the man in the video. Mr. Lux did not appear, but his testimony was read in court.

“I would like to clarify that in the video clip that I saw, a man riding a black Dream motorbike and wearing an ivory shirt and taking off a helmet and wearing a cap was really Mr. Veasna,” he said.

Another witness, grocery seller Heng Samphors, said Mr. Veasna borrowed the motorbike that another bodyguard had left at her house the night before the murder, and returned it a few hours afterward.

“I saw the killer on Facebook and television wearing the ivory shirt,” she said. “The photo in the video was really a photo of Sieng Veasna.”

Presiding Judge Top Chhun Heng said the court would hear today from police officials and review documents. A date for the final statements from lawyers and prosecutors would be scheduled later, he said.

Three other bodyguards—Koy Chanthul, Meas Sambath and Chhun Chetra—have been charged as accomplices after po­lice said they admitted to being lookouts during the November 2014 slaying. The suspected getaway driver, Ly Sao, died of encephalitis in June.

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