PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Prosecutors in Cambodia charged a former provincial governor on Tuesday with killing a National Assembly staffer with whom he was romantically involved, in a rare case in which a senior member of the ruling party has faced a major criminal charge.
A spokesman of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court said Lay Vannak, formerly the governor of the southern province of Takeo, was charged along with his brother, Gen. Lay Narith, the province's deputy police chief. If convicted of murder, the charge they appear to face, each could serve 10-15 years in prison. Premeditated murder carries a maximum term of life imprisonment.
Police originally said that 36-year-old Chev Sovathana had committed suicide by hanging herself at her home in Takeo earlier this year, but recently reopened the case and declared it was a murder. The case has drawn intense public interest.
Lay Vannak acknowledged their love affair on his Facebook page but denied killing her. In his post, made after reports of police suspicion had circulated but before his arrest Sunday, he said Chev Sovathana had attempted suicide on previous occasions.
Two other people who are suspected of involvement in the case have been charged with trying to conceal evidence, court spokesman Ly Sophana said.
Lay Vannak is a Central Committee member of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party. He was transferred last week from his post as governor to an unspecified position in the Interior Ministry, a move believed to be connected to the murder investigation.
Cambodia's judicial system is generally regarded as a tool of the ruling party, which rarely takes actions against its top members or their cronies, but targets government critics and opposition politicians.