The cases of a provincial military police officer and a soldier were sent to court yesterday as four other provincial military police officers were disciplined and made to write written statements accepting blame over the violent crackdown during a land dispute in Preah Sihanouk province last month.
On January 24, a clash broke out in Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nop district as provincial authorities were measuring disputed land after protestors threw stones and petrol bombs at security forces. In return, security forces fired multiple warning shots into the air.
In the incident, a construction worker was shot and injured, while four other villagers were arrested and released the same day.
On February 13, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said the violence used by the authorities in the land dispute was wrong and called on provincial authorities to avoid deploying soldiers to crack down on protesters.
After the incident, National Military Police Chief General Sao Sokha formed a fact-finding team to investigate the use of firearms during the clash.
Speaking at a press conference at the provincial military police headquarters, National Military Police spokesman Brigadier General Eng Hy yesterday said following the investigation, the team has disciplined four military police officers who were found to have committed the wrongdoing.
Brig Gen Hy said the team also sent the cases of a military police officer who kicked a resident, and a soldier who beat up a protester with a rifle while the protester was bound and kneeling to court.
“The five military police officers who were handed down punishments include Sok Thearith, whose case has been sent to court because he used violence against one of the protesters,” he said. “The National Military Police also investigated a soldier who used the weapon [AK-47 rifle] to beat a protester. We has also sent his case to court.”
Colonel Penh Vibol, deputy commander of provincial military police, was one of the four military police officers who were handed a punishment, according to Brig Gen Hy.
He said three other officers, including Puth Chan, Sek Kompheak and Sun Veasna, were found to have been at the scene where violence took place, but failed to prevent the use of violence and firearms.
Brig Gen Hy said those officers did not fire a single shot at the protesters, nor did they injure a protester, based on forensic examination.
“There were 100 officers who went to carry out the Supreme Court decision, with ten rifles and six pistols, and the bullet lodged in the victim’s body was a K59 pistol,” he said “So, our experts also took the bullets from the military police officers for forensic examination, but they are not matched, which means that the one that wounded the victim was not shot by our military police officers.”
Brig Gen Hy added that the commission still continues the investigation in order to find the perpetrators responsible for firing at the protestors.
Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court spokesman Lim Bun Heng said that he has not yet received the cases.