Authorities in Cambodia have arrested on murder charges a police official accused of shooting a restauranteur in the head at point-blank range over delays in his food order.
Keo Chetra, 29, the deputy police inspector of Svay Rieng province’s Bavet city, allegedly shot Soeun Srey Ner, 38, the owner of the Daner Lucky Music restaurant on the night of Dec. 20 as he dined there.
Soeun died while she was in transit to a hospital in Vietnam. It was not immediately clear why she was being taken to Vietnam for treatment, but Bavet is close to the border with Vietnam and sources suggest that Vietnamese health facilities have a better reputation than local ones in Cambodia.
A police report filed by Police Chief Mao Phin Phirun said the reason behind the shooting was because Keo Chetra became heavily intoxicated.
Witnesses told the local newspaper that Keo pulled out his gun and shot her dead when he got angry at Soeun for making him wait for hot noodles he had ordered.
According to the police report, the suspect turned himself in and admitted to the crime.
The warrant was issued by the investigating judge of the Svay Rieng provincial court, Chhun Davy. Keo will be held in temporary detention on charges of murder and unauthorized possession of a firearm.
Keo Chetra is the son of Bavet’s police inspector Keo Kong.
Nuth Bopinnaroat, the coordinator for the LICADHO NGO’s activities in Svay Rieng, applauded the court’s decision to detain Keo, as possible a sign that nepotism might not prevail in the case.
“In this case, [the suspect] is a deputy inspector and his father is the inspector,” said Nuth.
“According to the law, there is a clear conflict of interest,” he said, adding that his status as a deputy inspector and as the son of the inspector emboldened him so he “dared to do anything at will.”
“He even carried a weapon and freely fired it without thinking of the danger he posed to others,” Nuth added.
“We [at LICADHO] are calling for tougher arms control and strict enforcement of the law. If those can be enforced, we’ll see fewer similar incidents,” said Nuth.
Shootings are relatively common in Cambodia and the perpetrators are often officers of the armed forces and gendarmeries, senior police officers, or descendants of those officers.
Civil society officials claim that the country’s failure to effectively prevent shootings is due to a poor administrative system and that well-connected people can act with impunity.
According to Article 199 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code, if convicted, Keo could face a prison sentence of ten to fifteen years.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.