PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia on Saturday charged and detained a wanted property tycoon over the assault of a popular TV actress after a video of the vicious attack sparked widespread anger and calls from the premier to give himself up.
Wealthy businessman Sok Bun, who had fled to Singapore in an apparent attempt to evade authorities, was arrested on his return at Phnom Penh airport before being charged at court, officials said.
CCTV footage of the assault on Ek Socheata, better known by her stage name SaSa, in a restaurant has fuelled public outrage in a country where the rich are often seen to be beyond the reach of a corrupt judicial system.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has “officially charged Sok Bun with intentional violence", Sok Khemarin, chief of the interior ministry’s penal police department, told AFP.
He added that the 37-year-old property magnate had pleaded guilty and was now being detained in Prey Sar prison, on the outskirts of the capital, awaiting trial. Sok Bun faces up to five years in jail if convicted.
Violence against women is commonplace in Cambodia but the public exposure of the attack triggered a nerve in the country, dominating local headlines as the graphic video was widely shared on social media.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Hun Sen joined calls for Sok Bun to face justice, asking the tycoon to hand himself in to police.
- In search of ‘justice’ -
The attack on SaSa by the businessman and his armed bodyguard took place in the early hours of July 2 in a Japanese restaurant in the capital.
She obtained CCTV footage of the incident and posted it on Facebook four days later alongside images of her injuries.
The grainy footage shows two men beating a woman in a black dress, dragging her from a leather sofa and repeatedly kicking her in the head as she desperately tries to get up from the floor.
Sok Bun’s bodyguard is seen brandishing a handgun throughout the attack.
In an interview with AFP on Thursday, SaSa said the argument began when Sok Bun made drunken and unwanted advances towards a Japanese friend.
“He used his boots to step on my body and head, he kicked me and he used his boots to stomp on my face and nose,” the 28-year-old said.
“I am aware of domestic violence (in Cambodia), but this violence was so cruel. His beating was not to scare me, he was trying to kill me.”
After Sok Bun’s arrest on Saturday morning, SaSa told AFP she was happy the tycoon was now in the hands of the law.
“Let the judges and the court do their work, all I want is justice,” she said.
In earlier statements released through his lawyer, Sok Bun admitted to carrying out the attack and pleaded for mercy from the public.
He also said he had offered SaSa US$100,000 (S$136,647) compensation and had resigned from a number of trade bodies.
SaSa has said that the sum was later raised to US$200,000 but she has not decided whether to accept it.