National Military Police yesterday said that two Banteay Meanchey provincial military police officers have been found to be involved in torturing a villager under custody over a land protest.
According to a National Police statement issued yesterday “On January 18, the special committee investigating the alleged torture sent documents to Banteay Meanchey provincial court identifying the suspects as Colonel Sar Bunsoeung, deputy provincial military police chief and First Lieutenant Chhoy Rathana, an officer working with provincial anti-drug office.
It said that Bunsoeung and Rathana confessed that they neglected to protect five villagers involved in a land dispute in O’Chrov district to be beaten up by drug addicts.
On December 28, Tuy Sros, 34, and about 40 villagers from Changha commune in O’Chrov district gathered in front of Provincial Hall to protest against the alleged burning of homes on a disputed plot of land in Slor Kram and Soeng communes.
Mr Sros and four villagers were arrested and detained at the provincial military police headquarters between December 28 and 31, accused of committing violence against a property owner.
On January 1, Mr Sros was pronounced dead and his body was returned to his family for a funeral.
Following an order by Prime Minister Hun Sen last week a special committee was set up to examine the case.
National Military police spokesman Brigadier General Eng Hy yesterday said that the National Military Police is enforcing the law.
“National Military commander General Sao Sokha has advised them not to shun from taking responsibility if they committed mistakes. They must be prosecuted if found guilty of wrongdoing,” Brig Gen Hy said.
Cambodian Human Rights Committee spokesman Chin Malin yesterday welcomed the arrests of the suspects.
“It is serious abuse of the law,” Mr Malin said. “This case will be a warning to powerful government officials and authorities not to violate the law.”
Banteay Meanchey provincial court yesterday issued a statement saying Bunsoeung and Rathana were charged with intentional acts with aggravating circumstances.
“Banteay Meanchey provincial court today [Sunday] charged the provincial military police officers with intentional act of violence with aggravating circumstances,” it said.
If convicted, each could be jailed from two to five years, it said.
Reached by phone yesterday, Mr Sros’s 35-year-old wife, Bouy Kimleak, broke down and said: “I am still saddened by my husband’s death.”
Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator with rights group Adhoc, said “It will be a strong message to everyone that they must abide by the laws. I want sub-national authorities to take immediate actions rather than wait for an order from a top leader.”