Takeo Governor Murder Case, Journalist Incitement Verdicts Upheld

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Lay Vannak in a photo posted to the Takeo provincial administration website on December 3, 2017.
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A former provincial governor and his ex-provincial police deputy brother have had their 13- and 10-year prison sentences for the murder of a mistress upheld by the Supreme Court.

The case, initially deemed a suicide before a reinvestigation, also landed the husband of the murdered woman’s cleaner and the governor’s driver in prison for two years for hiding evidence.

Lay Vannak, former Takeo governor, and Lay Narith, the province’s ex-deputy police chief, were convicted in 2019 of murdering Chev Sovathana, who was 36 at the time she was found hanged in her Takeo home in January 2018.

On Friday, Supreme Court presiding judge Nil Nonn rejected appeals made by Vannak, Narith and the two associates, Choem Vuth and Men Samay.

Previously, Vannak admitted to a yearlong affair with Sovathana but maintained his innocence, saying she had killed herself when he tried to end the relationship. But authorities later said Vannak and his brother killed her outside her home and ordered the accomplices to “bring the body back into the house and hang it with curtains in her room.”

“The [initial] investigation was finished too quickly, and he is a governor, so we felt suspicious,” Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak previously told the Phnom Penh Post. “They took the body away very quickly.”

Also on Friday, judge Nonn upheld an incitement verdict against journalist and publisher Ros Sokhet, who was convicted over critical comments online against government leaders.

Sokhet wrote on Facebook in June last year: “Hun Sen will lose everything if he continues to insist on installing his son as prime minister! The yuon will not support Hun Manet,” he said, using a derogatory term for Vietnamese.

Sokhet said during his Supreme Court hearing earlier this month that he intended to continue as a journalist following his release.

“I will continue to be a reporter because the Ministry of Information has not canceled my license. I will continue because I want to promote the media sector in Cambodia to be better than before,” Sokhet said at the time.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling against him on Friday, Sokhet has only a few days left on his 18-month sentence.

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