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The Disappearance and Death of Dave Walker: A History
Page 9. The Investigation Part 6
Richard Ehrlich & Sonny Chhoun In The Middle

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THE INVESTIGATION WEEK ONE Part 6 (Continued):  Richard Ehrlich & Sonny Chhoun In the Middle

During that first week of crisis management, from the moment I called Dave's cousin and official next-of-kin Tammy Madon in Edmonton to inform her that Dave was missing and ask her to file a report with Canada's Foreign Affairs Department, Tammy and I stayed in contact several times a day by Facebook messages, e-mails and telephone conversations. (See Page 4.) We followed the course of events unfolding over the many different e-mail threads and did our best to stay on top of developments and plot an overall course of action.  Both Tammy and I had full time jobs in Canada and there was a two hour time difference between her in Edmonton and me in Toronto.  Tammy was working in a bank, while I was lecturing and advising undergraduate international relations history students at Ryerson University in Toronto. It was fortunate that my university was in a winter break week (Reading Week) the first week after Dave's disappearance but now classes were resuming and I had to return to a heavy teaching schedule.

One thing that is evident from the conversations I had with Tammy was that we were both disturbed by the central role that Dave's business partner Sonny Chhoun had in everything that we were being told of Dave's disappearance and everything that was being done about it.  There wasn't anything specific that made us suspicious of Sonny at the time but having no evidence of any motive for Dave's disappearance, Sonny as the business partner kept coming into our peripheral vision. Statistically speaking, in the absence of Dave having a wife or girlfriend or being the victim of a random crime, "the business partner" is where many people felt the police needed to take a hard investigative look.  Had police been looking...

"sonny says he needs to get permission from seim reap's *police* or *immigration* to collect the *three* items and/or everything else"  

I was very uneasy as Sonny seemed to be becoming our 'boots-on-the-ground' go-to point man and was privy to all the investigative measures we were undertaking while being himself the only source of the timeline and circumstances of Dave's disappearance. (See Page 5) Soon Richard Ehrlich began lobbying for Sonny's innocence, in what I thought was naive and irresponsible to Dave.  Nobody was really in a position to vouch for Sonny in the way Ehrlich had been undertaking to do until Sonny's story could be checked and investigated independently and professionally.

We did not know it at the time, but Sonny had already been deceiving us from the very beginning. While Sonny Chhoun in his sworn statement in March [see Page 2] admitted that he collected Dave's phone from his hotel room on Monday, February 17, according to this formerly confidential e-mail, on Thursday morning (11:48 A.M.) February 20, Chhoun was still telling us that the phone was in Dave's hotel room and was anxious to get permission to take not only the phone (already in his possession actually), but Dave's laptop and camera as well to "hand carry the *three* items to Phonom Penh..."

From: Richard Ehrlich rituals in pagodas
Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2014 11:48 AM
To: Everybody
Subject: dave walker update # 4 ~ thursday february 20, 11:48 pm bangkok time

sonny chhoun says dave's *three* items -- phone, laptop, camera -- are still in dave's guest house room, along with his other possessions and

sonny says he needs to get permission from seim reap's *police* or *immigration* to collect the *three* items and/or everything else.

(note: in cambodia, the *police* and *immigration* are under the ministry of interior, which is why there it is unclear which department gives that permission. but siem reap is a small town so it would be easily cleared up as soon as sonny asks).

it is now near midnight here in bangkok and siem reap, and sonny will ask the officials in the morning, about nine hours from now.

sonny expects the police/immigration to reply that they need the official permission from the *canadian consul* in phnom penh, before they can allow sonny or anyone else to take those *three* items.

so sonny says he will also phone the *canadian consul* in phnom penh in the morning, and ask how to proceed.

sonny says he would hand carry the *three* items to phnom penh, if asked to do so.

when we get an update about all of the above, i will email the entire group.

In a Facebook message (see sidebar) on February 20, 10:51 PM Toronto Time (February 21, 10:51 AM in Cambodia) Sonny informed me that, "I have the phone now." [My emphasis] "Now" suggesting he had just recently gotten the phone into his possession. This differs entirely from his sworn statement he got the phone on the evening of Monday, February 17. 

It also conflicts with Dave Walker's ex-wife Praiwan's statement that Sonny called her on Monday afternoon (Tues morning in Cambodia) and told her he got her number from Dave's cell phone. (They had never met or spoken.) Sonny also told her that he began worrying about Dave going missing on Saturday, the second day, not Friday Praiwan insists, saying that if Sonny had told her that within several hours of Dave missing an appointment with Sonny, he demanded that Dave's hotel room be opened she would have thought that very unusual.  She insists Sonny told her he demanded that Dave's room be opened on Saturday, the second day after Sonny said Dave missed their appointment. 

"Miracles must exist for the man I love. Come on Dave...I miss you."

Next Richard forwarded to us this creepy missive from Sonny praying to "the super natural power, the moon, the sun, the water, the earth, which Dave believing in and miracles must exist for the man I love."  The more Sonny proclaimed and wept, the more suspicious I became: it was all just too 'over-the-top' even for a Khmer Shakespearean. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Ehrlich rituals in pagodas
Sent: Friday, February 21, 2014 3:20 AM
To: Evereyone
Subject: sonny chhoun's update & new mobile phone number
From: Sonny Chhoun <sonny@journalist.com>
Subject: Dave will be back as we pray
Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 3:02 PM
To: rituals in pagodas <glossograph@gmail.com>
the police are still looking for Dave, I know that they checked at the international hospital, i am sure they will check all the clinics, some local families and I have done some search a round, clinics,hospital, a bout  20 pagodas, temples, places, places where we use to go,place where we played with our dogs.
we got a friends who got a group of a bout 30 people is still looking out for dave, some posters has been places in and a round Dave resort, more poster will be made if more needed.
I still think Dave is still alive and well, I know he can do it.
local families from the 5 son restaurant to the family of the Poorest man are worrying, many turn to spiritual belief, I have been to two of the psychic, and everyone said the same Dave is still a live and well.
He will be back home soon.
I pray for spiritual, the super natural power, the moon, the sun, the water, the earth, which Dave believing. in and miracles must exist for the man I love.
Come on Dave ... I miss you.
Regards, Sonny

I was getting concerned that nobody had taken an official statement from Sonny, pinning him down to a sworn version of his story.

From: Peter Vronsky
Sent: Friday, February 21, 2014 2:35 AM
To: Chris Taylor; caitlin Fisher
Reply To: Peter Vronsky
Cc: Everybody
Subject: Re: dave walker update # 4 ~ thursday february 20, 11:48 pm bangkok time

Quick question.

Has anybody from the Canadian Embassy or Australian, or on their behalf, actually contacted Sonny? Has an official statement been taken from him?

If not, my thinking is that this needs to be pointed out to the media here tonight, as tomorrow is Friday, and then the weekend will slow things down here.

So that the media can start nagging Foreign Affairs tomorrow why they have not contacted after a week the person who is reporting Dave Walker’s disappearance.

If they have not by now contacted Sonny then what the fuck are they doing?

Peter Vronsky

From: Alan Parkhouse

Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2014 2:43 PM
To: info@petervronsky.com ; Chris Taylor ; caitlin Fisher
Cc: Everybody
Subject: Re: dave walker update # 4 ~ thursday february 20, 11:48 pm bangkok time

I'm not sure, but I think Sonny was the one who contacted the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok and made the missing person's report. Correct me if I'm wrong. When I phoned the consul in PP the report had already been filed. He's certainly been talking to the police.


Alan Parkhouse was wrong on that one.  When I had contacted Foreign Affairs on the morning of Monday, February 17, it was already 11:00 PM in Bangkok and nothing was showing up on the Foreign Affairs computer network indicating that Dave was reported missing.  Foreign Affairs would not even take an "official" report from me because I was not a family member. They promised to "look into it" but warned me that they would not be able to follow-up with me for reasons of "privacy" as I was not a member of Dave's family.  I had to wrangle Tammy Madon to make the report that same late afternoon when it was already Tuesday morning in Bangkok.  I would venture that Dave's disappearance became "official" for the Canadian Embassy in Thailand at around 1:00 PM Bangkok time on Tuesday, February 18. (See Page 4)

"sonny will be handling all those incoming calls"

Richard EhrlichNot only was Richard Ehrlich and whoever was directing him relying on Sonny's claims, but now they made Sonny's new cell phone number the one printed on the missing poster for people to call with tips on Dave's disappearance! Sonny would be taking in all local phoned-in tips in Cambodia regarding Dave's disappearance. Absurd!

But if anything set off alarm bells for me about just how naive Richard Ehrlich's trust in Sonny was, was Ehrlich's assertion in the below e-mail that $20,000 was "hardly worth executing the perfect crime to seize." I thought, "is he kidding? What fairy land world is he living in?  I've been in finer and more civilized places than Cambodia where they will kill you for a cigarette, let alone for $20,000."

And Richard's even more naive comment in the below e-mail that "sonny is already presumably financially well off. he drives a new landrover or four-wheel" actually put a chill down my spine about Sonny for the first time.  It had the opposite effect than the one Ehrlich intended. Up until then I just looked at Sonny unemotionally, merely as a possible statistical probability in his being Dave's business partner that he would have to be carefully investigated, but I had no personal feeling about him, one way or the other, until I heard that.  Ehrlich's remark about a new Land Rover put the hook in me.  I didn't know Sonny had such luxurious tastes living in one of the poorest countries in the world.  What kind of fuck-ass psychopathology needs a new luxury Land Rover in Cambodia, I wondered. 

Animist Farm Films SUVEhrlich's comment made me go look into the "Land Rover."  It was probably the Toyota RAV4 L (Limited) with the Animist Farm Films logo plastered on it posted on the Poorest Man Facebook Page.  It's no Land Rover. It's a Toyota SUV but the L Limited is top of the line.  Slick ride just the same. But even then, I was prepared to give Sonny a benefit of the doubt.  If Sonny was indeed a fixer for visiting foreign film crews, it made sense to own an SUV capable of packing gear through all terrain including off-road in Cambodia and a prestigious vehicle would give visiting clients a sense of security in the professional success and competence of the fixer they had hired. 

That's how it went on and goes on in my head with Sonny Chhoun. For every suspicion I had (and have today); I also had (and have today) a devil's argument in defence of Sonny Chhoun.  Back then it was critical to the possibility that Dave might still be alive. We did not have a shred of evidence for him being dead. For Dave's sake I hoped that indeed Sonny was the friend that Dave deserved.  I still want that today.  I want that Dave was not murdered by anybody at all, and if he was murdered, then I want that it was not somebody he thought was a friend of his.

But what I want most is the truth.  Not some Andre Gide French-ass the color of truth is gray kind of bullshit truth.  I want to know the life and death kind of truth, the kind that leaves no gray in between.  I want to know if Dave was murdered, or not; simple as that.             

From: Richard Ehrlich rituals in pagodas
Sent: Friday, February 21, 2014 12:17 AM
To: mats peri ; vronsky ~ ; tammy ~ ; sareth ; last gasp ron turner * ; turnerColin ; glossograph ~
Subject: mats vronsky tammy sareth ron colin ~ *e. p. & w.*

greetings just you six

(*evidence* *poster* & *website*)

i just now spoke with sonny...

sonny chhoun also agreed to get a *new mobile phone number* in siem reap, for exclusive use for the poster.

he hopes to get this new number in an hour or so, and when he does i will forward the number to you all, so you will be able to list his new number.

you can put it on the poster, t-shirts, and and also the website etc.

sonny will be handling all those incoming calls.

i trust this is cool with all of you.

i understand the various concerns some people have expressed about a possible *conflict of interest* in having sonny handle this.

but please realize:

we have no one else permanently based in siem reap, who speaks english and khmer, who is on sonny's investigative journalist level, and who knows the details, and who comes with perfect references by other foreign correspondents who have worked with him over the years...

the other alternative would be to put the *australian embassy* in phnom penh's public phone number on the poster, and let their staff handle all the calls...

...sonny however would meet people in person, and take whatever risk there is in doing so.

if sonny is a dr. jekyl figure in all this, doing the perfect crime, then it is really too late to undo.

dave has already disappeared.

the camera, phone, and laptop have already been at least seen once by sonny after the fact.

and we have no dave, but instead a vast jungle.

nothing, not even sonny being the alleged mastermind, would bring dave out of that one -- which is our only real concern.

if you look on sonny's facebook page, you will see dave posted a few cute photos on sonny's facebook wall, just days before disappearing, so no animosity or alienation there.

also sonny is already presumably financially well off.  he drives a new landrover or four-wheel.

and yes he and dave each have half of the property.

but it is just bare jungle with no infrastructure -- and dave said he paid $20,000 for his half, hardly worth executing the perfect crime to seize.

we also have no ransom demand, so the disappearance does not seem related to getting any real huge money.

i agree with the theory that it was dave's investigations during the past 20 years or more about the khmer rouge *rat lines* to canada, where they snuck in among refugees and then extorted cambodian refugees settled there -- which dave reported in the toronto star -- and also the endless investigations and interviews he was doing in siem reap among all the old khmer rouge, their victims, and piecing together who is who.

sonny helped him do all that, and was his daily translator.

so if anyone should be worried about all this, it should be sonny who is staying on there.

when i asked him about the *rat lines* and investigations, sonny told me today that no, he doesnt think it is a khmer rouge angle.

sonny says he tries to stay *spiritual* about it, and that dave will be *coming back.*

when i asked what that obscure concept was, we ran out of time on our conversation.

but yes i will pursue it, though it is probably just his prayer and his animist spiritualism.

my thai girlfriend lek also suggests if all else fails, we should do some animist ceremonies, so this is a common and typical response, and probably good advice.


"i trust this is cool with all of you"

What shook me up the most about Ehrlich's 'Sonny can be trusted because he drives an SUV' e-mail was not that Sonny drove one, but the significance of it as understood and argued by Richard Ehrlich.  It shook deeply my confidence in Ehrlich's judgement and worried me now as Tammy and I over the week had grown to trust and depend upon on his claim that he was a journalist with thirty years experience in South East Asia.  See CNN Authors: Richard S. Ehrlich 

Now according to that e-mail Ehrlich was not just keeping Sonny close to us anymore where we could watch what he does, he handed over to Sonny control of any incoming information in response to Dave Walker Missing posters, that Sonny claimed in his e-mail he had hung around the neighborhood of Dave's hotel, while searching for Dave with "30 people".  It was a done deal; "i trust this is cool with all of you"; with a nice list of why the other sensible alternatives were impractical along with "evidence" of Sonny's apparent innocence.  Yet at that same moment, my confidential informant on the ground in Siem Reap was reporting and asking that weekend about there being no posters hung:

Is *S* [Sonny] a local to Siem Reap? I am surprised that if he is here, there are no missing posters around town. This is a small place, and it doesn't take long for stories to travel.

I would think that he would be more active in trying to get the word out about his friend.

Unless he knows more than what he is telling you and/or scared of retribution from whomever is responsible."  (See Page 7).
[E-mail February 22, 2014.]

"some fresh activity has begun and others are asking for us to all step back..."

When I received the next e-mail I should have been suspicious, but I took it like I took at first many things coming from Ehrlich's camp:  I trusted it on face value in the belief that he was acting in Dave's best interests. I may have a Ph.d. and be an expert on the history of serial homicide, but when it came to people around me, I am still a trusting idiot. 

This would not be the last time in this investigation that we would hear promises of "fresh activity"... reports of mysterious unnamed investigators "others are asking for us to step back"... dramatic developments "very twisted elements appearing...", etc., etc.  While I was not entirely secure now in Richard Ehrlich's judgement, I at least still trusted in his integrity, in the mistaken belief that everybody was sincerely focused on only one thing--finding Dave--that it was all about Dave and about absolutely nothing and nobody else.  I had no reason not to believe him, when Ehrlich claimed, that some new turn was developing in the investigation in the field, and again, I was not going to second guess from my nest in Toronto on decisions coming from the field in Cambodia.  Except Cambodian was not where the decisions were coming from, but I did not know that yet. 

When I was suddenly asked to cease contact with Sonny because "others are asking for us to all step back", I made no challenge, I did not even question who those "others" were, who were doing the asking.  I did what I was asked.  Sonny was being put into a protective fold by the very people who should have been very carefully picking over Sonny's claims and keeping him at arm's length from the investigation.  He should have been the focus of the investigation, not its main point-man.

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Ehrlich rituals in pagodas

Sent: Sunday, February 23, 2014
To: vronsky ~ ; glossograph ~
Subject: vronsky ~ *silence*

greetings vronsky,

please *cancel* my previous suggestion for you to be phoning *sonny* or other publicizing of any key details, because some fresh activity
has begun and others are asking for us to all step back.

so please resist the urge, and not make any public statements about *names* or *suspicions* or *people of interest* etc.

and please dont put out that sort of *inside sensitive* info and photos and quotes on any social media.

ditto about please not to trouble sonny with outside calls.

there are some very twisted elements appearing and we don't want to fuel anything the wrong way at this time.

trust you understand.

more soonest.

by the way, when do you start teaching again?

bests richard ~


February 19, 2014
2/19, 9:55am
Peter Vronsky to Sonny Chhoun

Hi Sonny. This is Dave's friend in Toronto. Do you have by any chance the phone number for Dave's ex-wife Praiwan here in Canada? We are trying to find her.

Also, what happened to Dave's cell phone and laptop -- are they in the custody of the police?

February 20, 2014
Sonny Chhoun

2/20, 10:51pm

I have his phone now, laptop and camera, belonging in still in the room

Peter Vronsky
2/20, 10:52pm

Thank Sonny. I hear help is on the way. Hope for best for brother Dave.

Sonny Chhoun
2/20, 10:55pm

dave ex wife: priwan xxxx -xxxx

Peter Vronsky
2/20, 10:56pm

Will call her right now.

Sonny Chhoun
2/20, 10:56pm


Peter Vronsky
2/20, 10:58pm

no answer - left message for her to call me

February 22, 2014
Peter Vronsky
2/22, 11:23am

talked to Praiwan. Yesterday.

February 22, 2014
Peter Vronsky

2/22, 7:30pm

'Sao lao' may be Salao Mao.

February 23, 2014
Peter Vronsky
2/23, 2:07am

Picture of Salao Mao attached

Peter Vronsky To Tammy Madon
February 19, 2014

I am very wary of Sonny, Dave's partner.

Everything we know, and everything the Cambodian Police know, is based on Sonny's statements. I have messaged him on his Facebook page about where Dave's laptop and cell phone is currently and he has not responded. Dave apparently sunk $20,000 into a chicken farm, and my bet is that Dave's name as a non-citizen is not on the deed.

To us this maybe a dirt farm with no electricity -- in Cambodia this is Shangra-la. Everybody over there is warm and fuzzy on Sonny, he has a good reputation, etc. I never met him, so I cannot say.

The thing is, what happened to Dave does not appear to be a Khmer Rouge style. They just roll up on somebody on a motorbike and shoot them. Dave it seems like got into a vehicle with somebody he knew and trusted. We don't even know if anybody has walked the route there to see if there is a minimum sign of a struggle - a shoe, a water bottle with Dave's fingerprint.

If you talk with the RCMP urge them to have the Cambodian police look very closely at Dave's business partner. I hate to say it, because everybody is saying Sonny is working really hard in looking for Dave, and beating the bushes everywhere for him and is very upset -- but I don't care. Sonny needs to be looked at carefully. And right now, he is the "go-to" guy on the scene.

This is between me and you, although I have in less frank terms hinted to Richard Ehrlich the same thing. I also sense it between the lines from several journalists... they linger just a little longer on the "business partner." Statistically speaking, when you get hurt, it is usually by somebody close to you, either personally or professionally. I just find it odd that Sonny in his search of Dave has not checked into his Facebook, since this is all being run on Facebook.

2/19, 11:10 pm

Tammy Madon
You know I thought the same thing. As soon as this all started I tried to friend Sonny so I could see if he could shed light on this. He had not responded and there had been no contact from Sonny to me or anyone . This is very odd. I assumed though that he may be out of cell phone area.

I agree. Is there any way we can get the police to investigate him?


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