Deputy Village Chief Killed in Online Gambling Sting

3 min read
Kampong Thom provincial military police chief Hang Thol in August 2021, in a photo from the Kampong Thom provincial military police Facebook page.

Eleven Kampong Thom military police officers have been detained for an investigation into the death of a deputy village chief that occurred during a crackdown at an alleged online lottery cafe, said the provincial military police commander. 

Suong Don, deputy chief of Rung village in Baray district’s Krava commune, died on the way to the provincial military police headquarters on Sunday evening, and his family claims he was strangled by military police officers during one of the operation. 

Kampong Thom provincial military police chief Hang Thol said the 11 officers are currently being detained at the headquarters. 

“[We] asked them to stay at the headquarters as the measure now is to let the inspectors finish their work first,” he said. “If they investigate it and find out that they are guilty, they will put them in jail, but if the investigation’s [outcome] is not certain as the newspapers have reported.”

National Military Police spokesperson Eng Hy told VOD that the provincial officers had arrested four people at the cafe on Sunday, but one man, Suong Don, began to struggle to breathe while being transported to the military police headquarters. 

“While transporting the suspects to the military police headquarter, one of the suspects said he was not feeling well and the military police helped him to breathe, but the person died at the hospital,” Hy said.

Don’s family later raised concerns that the police caused his death, Hy added. 

“But on the 7th [August], we also received a message posted on Facebook, perhaps from his son, that his father had been strangled to death by the military police,” he said.

Hy said that the National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha had ordered an investigation and the detention of the 11 officers. 

“During the operation, we asked the commander of Kampong Thom provincial [military police] to detain all the individuals at the headquarters so that we could keep the evidence with the witnesses, which is the first step in accordance with the order of His Excellency General Sao Sokha,” he said.

Don’s daughter Din Nearatey told VOD on Tuesday that the family believed he was strangled by the arresting officers. Nearatey did not say how she knew what happened to her father in the police car, but local reporters had interviewed at least one of the three other individuals arrested with Don. 

Nearatey said she didn’t know why officers arrested her father, but she asked for justice.

She said that her father had entered a cafe with an online lottery game after he had a meeting that ended around 5 p.m. on Sunday, just before two cars of police officers arrived at the same cafe. 

Police then chased him to detain him for about 80 meters before grabbing him and pressing him down at his neck, before putting him in a police car, she said. 

“In the car, he begged them to take off his handcuffs, he could not breathe…the military police said that my father used this as an excuse not to handcuff him, and they did not remove his handcuff nor take him to the hospital. Thus, until he lost his breath in the middle of the road 102,” she said. 

When he stopped breathing, they took him to Baray District Hospital, where a doctor pronounced him dead. The doctor did not perform an autopsy, Nearatey added, but claimed he died from a heart attack. 

“Obviously, I say it’s not because of illness, because the perpetrator strangled him like that,” she said.

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