Mondulkiri Provincial Court yesterday charged a border post officer and military officer with premeditated murder over the deaths of three conservationists killed while on patrol in a wildlife sanctuary last week.
Ya Narin, director of the court, said the court charged three suspects: Phal Penh, chief of the O’Rolear border post, Kert Veha, a military officer, and Kert Veta, with premeditated murder, and another three suspects: Chheang Vannith, Lay Savy, and Torn Theara, with forestry crimes.
“Three suspects were charged with premeditated murder and the other three suspects were charged with forestry crimes,” he said. “We decided to detain all of them at the provincial prison.”
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.
Mam Vanda, the deputy prosecutor in charge of the case, confirmed the charges but declined to comment further.
The Environment Ministry yesterday issued a statement lamenting the loss of life and praising the three deceased for their honour and sacrifice to protect forests.
The ministry also congratulated authorities on the quick arrests of those being held responsible for the killings.
“The Ministry of Environment regrets the loss of three conservationist heroes, holds the deceased in high regard and thanks them for sacrificing their lives to protect natural resources,” the statement said.
“The ministry also deeply thanks all humanitarians sharing condolences and donating to the families of the three heroes,” it added. “At the same time, the ministry appeals to all people to protect and conserve our natural resources.”
Interior Minister Sar Kheng said yesterday that he also regretted the deaths.
“We are very regretful for this case,” Mr Kheng said. “I admire the provincial authority, National Police and National Military Police who cooperated with each other to find the suspects and justice.”
Lieutenant General Hong Vinol, deputy commander of the National Military Police who led the investigation, said cooperation between authorities led to the quick arrests.
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.
Mr 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.