Kampot Police Sent to Court for Firing at Ground and Killing a Man

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Mam Vibol in hospital on November 2, 2020, in a photo posted to the Facebook page of Kampot Provincial Police.

Three Kampot police officers were arrested and sent to court Thursday afternoon for killing a man because of a “coincidence” — they fired a gun at the ground while responding to a scuffle and the bullet hit the man, the provincial police chief said on Thursday.

In a statement, Kampot provincial police said a group of five young people sitting in a coffee shop on Monday confronted two others who were staring at them from another table. The group of five later chased the two others on motorbikes, in Kampot city’s Kampong Bay commune, the statement said.

Provincial Police chief Mao Chanmakthurith said officers arrived and immediately ordered two of the men in pursuit to stop driving. The men ignored them and hit the police with their motorbike, causing injuries to two officers, he said.

Kampot city officers then responded by firing a shot at the ground, which ricocheted and hit Mam Vibol, 29, Chanmakthurith said.

Vibol was taken to hospital but died the same day.

The chief said the three officers did not intend to shoot Vibol, instead calling it a “coincidence” that their attempt to stop the men had killed one of them. The officer who fired the shot was being disciplined by the National Police, Chanmakthurith said.

Three officers were arrested on Wednesday and then sent to court for questioning the next day over their response to the dispute, he said.

The provincial police headquarters gave Vibol’s family $4,500 for a funeral ceremony, though they denied this was a settlement payment to the surviving relatives.

However, Mam Dany, the victim’s father, said he thought the officers intended to shoot his son. The trajectory of the bullet — which entered the left side of Mam Vibol’s rib cage and exited through the right — didn’t look like it had come off the ground, the father said.

Dany said he would not file a court complaint because of the high cost, but he still asked the provincial court to find justice for his son and his family.

“If we sue and the court summons us, we need to spend money,” he said. “What if we do not have money, from where can we get money to pay [legal expenses]?”

“I want the court to give my child justice and give me appropriate compensation because I lost my child.”

Am Sam Ath, spokesperson for the human rights group Licadho, called for a full investigation of the case, adding that the details of the case raised questions about the officers’ handling of weapons.

“For [gun] users or the gun owners, [people] know that when we use or shoot it, it is dangerous to others if we use it improperly,” he said. “Thus, in some cases, we should not fire, we should not opt for shooting. We can find other ways or means, because the first thing that shooting causes is fear, and the second thing it causes is danger.”

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