Holiday Police Violence Puts Officer Under Investigation

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A traffic police officer in Phnom Penh on September 15, 2020. (VOD)

Five friends were eating and drinking under a tree on the January 7 holiday when 10 police officers pulled up, accused them of insult, drew an assault rifle, beat them, and detained them at the station, they have alleged.

The complaint against the Preah Sre commune police in Kampong Speu’s Odong district has sparked an investigation against its deputy chief, who has been sent to the provincial headquarters for discipline.

“I’ve sent the accusation against the officer to the province, the provincial police chief will investigate and discipline him,” district police chief Khem Samon said. Provincial police chief Sam Samoun could not be reached, while commune police chief Sun Phunna declined to comment.

The five alleged victims — factory workers Phen Chhay, 23, Kang Bunthon, 21, Hok Kakada, 21, and Phorn Rak, 18; and motorcycle repairman Suy Veasna, 33 — posted their complaint to Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s Facebook page this week after commune police allegedly refused to accept it.

The complaint says the five men had a day off on January 7 — Prampi Makara, or Victory Over Genocide Day — and gathered in the evening to eat under a tree along a public road in the commune.

Around 8:40 p.m., 10 commune police and village guards arrived and accused them of driving by the officers on a motorbike and insulting them.

“Are you cursing the police?” deputy commune police chief Phen Deth allegedly asked. The group answered that they had been gathered for some time and it was not them.

But Deth then brought out an AK-47 assault rifle, and the group begged him to stop, the complaint says.

Deth searched one of the five men, punched him in the left eye, and took them all into the district police station, it says.

There, Deth made the group kneel and later tested their urine for drugs. Family members called the commune police chief but were told he knew nothing and no arrests had been made, according to the complaint.

After the tests came back clean, the group was allowed to leave. The next day, the group tried to file a complaint at the commune police station, but were told to come back on Monday, when the police allegedly refused to accept the complaint.

In posting the complaint to Interior Minister Kheng’s Facebook page, the group said their rights had been violated. “Due to repeated injustices, we decided together to prepare a complaint to the Facebook page of samdech to help find justice for us,” they said.

“Samdech kralahom, if we have committed wrong, we agree to take punishment according to the law, but Preah Sre deputy commune police chief Phen Deth arresting and beating us without guilt has seriously impacted our rights and freedoms.”
Suspensions for police officers frequently require them to show up at the Interior Ministry or provincial police instead of their usual workplaces for a period of time.

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