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In-Laws Questioned in Mysterious Death of Frenchman and Children

Police officials collect skulls and bones thought to be of Laurent Vallier and his children in Kompong Speu province January 15, 2012.
PHNOM PENH - Court officials in Kampong Speu province are questioning two people with a possible connection to the mysterious disappearance of a Frenchman and four of his children, who are presumed dead.

Authorities are questioning the father- and mother-in-law of Laurent Vallier after the two filed a land title with the provincial government.

Vallier, who was 42, was last seen alive in September 2011. Police found his white 4x4 vehicle submerged in a pond behind his Kampong Speu home, outside the capital, along with five bodies, and adult and four children, in January 2012. The five bodies were presumed to be Vallier and his children.

Kampong Speu investigating judge Chem Rithy told VOA Khmer the two in-laws, Tit Chhourn, 69, and Sar Sarvy, 43, were questioned over the land title, but they are not officially suspects, and he said the court did not have evidence in the case from the Ministry of Interior.

“The French Embassy needs to open this case by international standards,” he added.

Tit Chhourn told VOA Khmer he had filed for a land title at the urging of the Ministry of Land Management, but that it had nothing to do with the disappearance of his son-in-law and grandchildren. His daughter, Vallier’s wife, earlier died in childbirth.

“Every day I hug the ashes of their bodies, and I never forget them,” he said.

Chan Soveth, chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the courts should have clear purpose before questioning people, and it remains unclear whether Vallier was murdered or committed suicide.

Nicolas Baudouin, first secretary at the French Embassy in Phnom Penh, declined to comment on specifics in the case but said he was happy to see an investigation was moving forward.