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Former Governor Charged With Murder of Mistress


This photo shared publicly on Lay Vannak's Facebook page, the former Takeo provincial governor, has led him to admit his relationship with Chev Sovathana, who is believed to have been murdered in January 2018. (Courtesy of Facebook)
This photo shared publicly on Lay Vannak's Facebook page, the former Takeo provincial governor, has led him to admit his relationship with Chev Sovathana, who is believed to have been murdered in January 2018. (Courtesy of Facebook)

A court spokesman told reporters that the death of Chev Sovathana, who was found hanged in January, was no longer being treated as a suicide.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday charged a former governor of Takeo province and his brother, the deputy police chief, with the murder of a parliamentary staffer with whom he was allegedly having an affair.

A court spokesman told reporters that the death of Chev Sovathana, who was found hanged in January, was no longer being treated as a suicide. Lay Vannak, the former governor, and his brother Lay Narith, have been charged with the crime.

Two other suspects -- Choem Vuth, husband to Sovathana’s maid, and Men Sakmay, Vannak’s driver -- were charged with hiding evidence.

Vannak’s arrest is the culmination of days of speculation about the death of Chev Sovathana, who was found hanged in her room in Takeo in late January. Police initially ruled her death a suicide but reopened the case as a murder investigation after family members raised suspicions.

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told VOA Khmer on Monday afternoon that Vannak was arrested on Sunday after police became suspicious.

He said: "Through the investigation of the body, we have seen that it was not suicide."

In a statement posted to Facebook the day before his arrest, Vannak admitted to a year-long affair with Sovathana but denied involvement in her death. Instead, he insisted that Sovathana, who was a CPP Youth working group member, had killed herself after he tried to break off the relationship.

“I would like to strongly deny all the accusations that my brother and I killed sister Chev Sovathana,” Vannak wrote. “My brother and I made no evil decision to kill her . . . I believe the judicial system and our courts will provide justice for me and my older brother.”

In a follow-up statement posted on Sunday, Vannak claimed that Sovathana had attempted suicide multiple times before.

Vannak was arrested hours later, shortly after he attended the appointment ceremony of the new governor of Takeo.

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