National / Crime & Legal

Cambodian court convicts two Japanese in murder of taxi driver

Kyodo

Two Japanese men in their 20s were convicted Thursday in the murder of a taxi driver in Cambodia’s northwestern province of Siem Reap earlier this year and sentenced to at least a decade in prison.

Um Chanthol, presiding judge of the Siem Reap Provincial Court, gave a 13-year term to Ryuji Nakakuki and a 10-year term to his friend Reimon Ishida.

The pair were also ordered to pay compensation of 100 million riels (¥2.6 million) to the bereaved family.

Given Cambodia’s high regard for Japan, which has provided development assistance to the country to help it rebuild from decades of civil war, the case sent shock waves across the local community. Attention has been focused on the verdict.

In their hearing on Sept. 9, Nakakuki, 24, from Fukushima Prefecture, confessed to being the one who fatally stabbed 40-year-old driver Hoem Chan with a knife on March 17, though he insisted he had no intentions of committing murder.

Ishida, 23, a former Ground Self-Defense Force member from Chiba Prefecture, also admitted to conspiring with Nakakuki to commit the crime, which occurred about 18 kilometers outside the town of Siem Reap, a gateway to the ancient Angkor temples.

Nakakuki said he intended to steal Hoem Chan’s taxi to commit a string of robberies and then use the ill-gotten gains to pay off a loan of ¥3.5 million (about $32,000) back in Japan.

The pair, who arrived in Siem Reap from Thailand the day before the crime, were arrested soon after crashing the taxi not far from where they stole it.

While rejecting the defense’s claim that there was no murderous intent, the court appeared to find little evidence that the murder was deliberate, given that the driver was killed after a struggle when threatened with a knife. If it was recognized to have been deliberate, the two could have faced life imprisonment.

At last month’s hearing, the two men apologized in court to Sok Chanroeun, 37, the victim’s widow and mother of their four children, who told the court she was seeking $100,000 (about ¥10.7 million) in compensation from them in addition to their punishment.

Speaking outside the courtroom after the ruling, Sok Chanroeun said she was happy with the conviction, but expressed dissatisfaction over the compensation.

When asked if she intends to appeal, she said she would need to consult with her uncle first.

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