Local Cambodian police officers accused of beating one man to death and critically injuring another in Kandal province ignored calls by the local police commissioner to answer questions about the assaults, RFA’s Khmer Service has learned.
Kandal Police Commissioner Iv Chamroeurn told RFA on Nov. 1 that the officers accused of the beating twice failed to report to Judicial Police in the district prompting him to ask the prosecutor to take action.
In Cambodia, the Judicial Police Department is in charge of most forms of criminal law enforcement. They are meant to function under the prosecutor-general's office, but they receive their orders from the national police commander.
On Oct. 21 Chamroeurn Seiha, 26, and his brother-in-law Tith Leap, 22, of Tanung village in Kampong Speu province were stopped and brutally beaten by local police after the two motorbikes he and his friends were riding were stopped by police in Kandal province’s Sa’ang District, witnesses told RFA.
Sa’ang district police officer Chhay Sina overtook Chamroeurn Seiha’s motorbike and Tith Leap sped up and passed them. Words were exchanged, and that’s when the fatal altercation began, Tith Leap told RFA.
“He stopped his motorbike to block us,” Tith Leap said. “Then he pulled his gun and pointed it at me while making a phone call to his colleagues to arrest us.”
Chhay Sina accused the men of robbing people. After the other police arrived and the altercation became a physical one, he added.
Villagers who saw the beating attempted to stop the police officers from attacking the men, but they didn’t listen, witnesses told RFA.
“When they arrived they started to kick and punch us,” Tith Leap said. “My brother-in-law and I were then handcuffed and brought to the police station where we were further beaten very badly by the police officers.”
The police claimed that the two men were beaten by the angry mob because they were suspected of robbing people, but the villagers dispute that account, saying it was the police who beat the two men.
‘He was beaten so brutally’
The villagers told RFA that the men’s injuries did not seem that bad at the scene, but after they were detained at the police station their condition became critical, according to the witnesses.
By about 8 p.m. they were released as villagers in Sa’ang vouched for them. They were taken to a hospital in Sa’ang, but the hospital didn’t admit them because their injuries were too severe.
The men were then transported to another hospital in Takmao, but Chamroeurn Seiha didn’t make it, family members said.
Chamroeurn Seiha’s wife Khuon Sreymom said she is calling for the authorities to speed up their investigation and the arrest of her husband’s killer so that justice is done.
She told RFA that her husband supported the family, and life has become very difficult since his death.
“I felt very sadden to see what happened to my husband,” she said. He was beaten so brutally that his entire body was covered with bruises. His skull and throat were severed.”
Tith Leap’s mother Hem Vann said her son has sustained severe injuries also. He might not be able to live a normal life again.
“I feel much pity for my son,” she said. “He has never been beaten that badly. If he is unable to live a normal life, I will be in a very bad situation financially for I am a widow.”
Cambodian police often act with impunity, and the violence of the police there is a grave breach of human rights, said Am Sam Ath, an official with the human rights organization LICADHO.
“Concrete measures will have to taken by the relevant authorities and the courts to punish the perpetrators and find justice for the victims,” he said. “Authorities have to make efforts to end the culture of impunity.”
The search for justice
While names of Chamroeurn Seiha and Mith Leap are obscure, even to people inside Cambodia, even the famous face obstacles with the police.
Kem Ley is a name that is known throughout Cambodia and to much of the outside world, but the investigation into his murder appears to have languished for months.
Kem Ley, a popular social and political critic, was gunned down in broad daylight on July 10 when he stopped in a Star Mart convenience store beside a Caltex gas station in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
Although authorities charged former soldier Oeuth Ang with the killing, there has been little official word about the investigation since his arrest.
Many in Cambodia doubt the government’s story that Kem Ley was killed by the former soldier over a debt, and Kem Ley’s family and supporters tell RFA they are planning to deliver a petition to Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Ministry of Justice and foreign embassies to push for a transparent and genuine investigation into his murder.
People who live near the location where Kem Ley was slain are afraid to talk about his death, but they have told RFA they have no faith the Cambodian courts to find justice for the activist.
Reported for RFA's Khmer Service Thai Tha and Sothearin Yeang for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.