The National Military Police has established a fact-finding commission to investigate the use of firearms during a clash between police and residents over a 71-hectare land dispute in Preah Sihanouk province’s Korky village last week.
The clash broke out on January 24 in Prey Nob district’s Bit Trang commune as authorities were measuring disputed land after a court prosecutor was instructed to carry out a Supreme Court decision on behalf of plaintiffs Chhay Narin and Kim Vanna.
According to a Provincial Hall report to the Interior Ministry on January 24, the situation escalated when protestors began throwing stones and petrol bombs at security forces.
It said provincial and military police had no choice but to fire about 20 warning shots. The report noted police are currently looking for a group of instigators who were among the protestors.
After police opened fire, two residents were injured, among them Pov Saroth, and a total of four people were detained and made to sign a contract promising to stop protesting.
General Sao Sokha, National Military Police commander, in a statement on Monday said the commission consists of six military police officers, including the acting chief of the inspection office, who will investigate what happened in Prey Nob district.
“The commission has the right to meet with relevant authorities, institutions and units,” Gen Sokha said. “It will also have the right to summon high-ranking military police officers and those involved for questioning and clarification in order to find the truth.”
Reached by phone yesterday, Gen Sokha said if security forces are found to have violated regulations then stern action will be taken.
“The work is still in progress – the team is currently questioning Preah Sihanouk provincial military police officers who were present that day,” he said. “Our country has laws, while there are regulations governing military police officers. If we find that a military officer has made a mistake, then we will punish the officer in accordance with the law.”
Major General Heng Bunthy, provincial military police commander, declined to comment on the case.
Last week, footage taken during the clash showing people tied up and being kicked by military police officers was shared numerous times on social media, prompting backlash from online users.
Orn Ean, Mr Saroth’s mother, said she supports the creation of the fact-finding commission, noting that what matters the most is her son’s recovery.
“We do not want anything, just for my son to recover,” she said, noting that he is currently recovering from the ordeal, but not yet able to walk. “We do not want to file a complaint – my son was shot by accident.”