A Takeo fisherman who suffered severe head injuries after allegedly being beaten by fisheries officers died at his family home on Thursday, after almost two weeks lying on a wooden bed unable to speak and his family unable to afford treatment.
Toem Vi suffered the injuries after going fishing on the night of January 6, with two witnesses aboard his boat saying he was assaulted by fisheries patrol officers. His family said they took him to a Phnom Penh hospital but could not afford to keep him there for more than three nights.
He lay unconscious on a wooden platform outside his home a week ago, with a young family member swatting flies away from his mouth.
Family and fishers admitted they were involved in illegal fishing to try to make a living, but said that in the past year there had been repeated violence at the hands of fisheries officers, who demanded money or beat them.
This week, a fisheries official denied that officers had used violence against Vi, saying they were instead trying to rescue the fisherman after he fell in the water and was struck by a propeller. A district police official disputed the account, however, saying Vi’s injuries did not seem consistent with being sliced by a propeller.
On Friday, Vi’s wife Yim Sroeun said her husband had died around 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. He had been unable to say a word since the alleged beating, she said.
“Everyone in the village is very sad about his death,” Sroeun said.
“I want compensation, and for the courts to punish them with the law,” she added, betraying concern about her family’s financial future.
Vi was to be cremated on Friday, she said.
On Wednesday, Angkor Borey district deputy police chief Ouk Sarath said the case was in the hands of provincial police.
Provincial police chief Sok Samnang could not be reached for comment on Friday.