The National Military Police said yesterday that six people, including a border police chief, have been arrested and sent to court for further questioning over a shooting last week that killed three conservationists on patrol in a wildlife sanctuary in Mondulkiri province.
Lieutenant General Hong Vinol, deputy commander of the National Military Police, said the prosecutor would continue questioning them today.
Last week, provincial police claimed the shooting, which occurred on Tuesday in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, happened after the victims came across some Vietnamese with motorbikes carrying timber and confiscated their equipment.
The incident took place between 4pm and 5pm, approximately 25 kilometres from the O’Rolear border police post in Pouyam village, in O’Raing district’s Sen Monorom commune.
The victims were identified as forest ranger Tern Soknai, National Military Police officer Sek Vathana, and Wildlife Conservation Society official Thol Kna.
Lt Gen Vinol, who led the investigation, said joint armed forces cooperated to arrest six suspects.
“The perpetrator was Phal Penh and Kert Veha was an accomplice,” he said, declining to comment further or identify the other suspects.
Provincial police chief Ouk Samnang confirmed that the perpetrator and all accomplices were arrested and sent to provincial military police headquarters for further questioning.
Lieutenant General Sok Khemarin, chief of the Interior Ministry’s penal department, said Mr Penh was arrested early on Friday in Tbong Khmum province’s Memot district, thwarting his attempt to flee to his homeland in Prey Veng province.
Mr Penh is chief of the O’Rolear border post and is accused of pulling the trigger that killed the three conservationists.
Kert Veha, a 37-year-old military officer, turned himself in on Wednesday night, confessing to being involved in the shooting but only by accompanying Mr Penh.
WCS country director Ken Sereyrotha described the slain workers, who were active in trying to conserve the forests and endangered wildlife in Cambodia, as “heroes of conservation”.
“Every day, rangers and law enforcement staff risk their lives to protect wildlife and forests. We should not allow criminals to destroy the forests of Cambodia and to threaten and murder those working tirelessly to protect this country’s natural heritage,” he said.
He asserted that WCS would continue trying to stop land encroachment, illegal logging and poaching, and would bring the murderers to justice.