PHNOM PENH • Cambodia yesterday charged and detained a property tycoon wanted over the assault of a popular TV actress after a video of the vicious attack sparked widespread anger and calls from the Prime Minister to give himself up.
Sok Bun, who had fled to Singapore in an apparent attempt to evade the authorities, was arrested on his return at Phnom Penh Airport before being charged in court, officials said.
CCTV footage of the assault on Ms 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", said Mr Sok Khemarin, chief of the Interior Ministry's penal police department.
He said 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.
After his arrest, SaSa, 28, told Agence France-Presse she was happy he was now in the hands of the law. "Let the judges and the court do their work, all I want is justice."
Violence against women is commonplace in Cambodia but the public exposure of the attack touched a nerve, dominating local headlines as the graphic video was widely shared on social media. On Thursday, PM Hun Sen joined calls for Sok Bun to face justice, asking him to hand himself in to the police.
The attack on SaSa by the tycoon and his armed bodyguard took place in the early hours of July 2 in a Japanese restaurant in the capital. She obtained CCTV footage and posted it on Facebook four days later, alongside images of her injuries.
The clip shows two men beating a woman in a black dress, dragging her from a sofa and repeatedly kicking her in the head as she desperately tries to get up from the floor. The bodyguard is seen brandishing a handgun throughout the attack.
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$137,000) compensation and resigned from a number of trade bodies. SaSa said the sum was later raised to US$200,000, but she had not decided whether to accept it.