A victim of an alleged police shooting filed a court complaint on Monday against a police official in Banteay Meanchey province for attempted manslaughter and illegal use of a weapon — an incident national police brushed off as being only a “warning shot.”
Neang Makara, 21, saw two men who live in his village being stopped by a deputy police chief of Poipet’s Nimit commune, Rithy Piseth, while driving home by motorbike after playing mobile phone games with friends, according to a letter he wrote to rights group Adhoc seeking help.
Makara turned around and spoke to the officer, telling him to take it easy and let them go since it was late at night, the letter says.
He then started to drive away, but the officer rushed at him with a gun, and he heard a shot, it says.
“I didn’t know I was hit. I just heard a shot,” he says in the letter. “I arrived home and felt pain in my chest and touched my back, and knew that I was shot by the police.”
The incident happened around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday night, according to the letter.
Makara told VOD on Tuesday that the bullet had entered near his left shoulder blade and become lodged near his right armpit.
He was rushed to a provincial hospital, but five days later he had recovered to a stable condition, he said.
His father, Nuon Voa, said on Monday that the shooting was unacceptable and “cruel.”
“I demand to have the offender sentenced and demand compensation for the cost of treatment,” Voa said. “He is a civil servant and shoots us like an animal.”
He had submitted Makara’s complaint to the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on Monday, he said.
Nimit commune police chief Ma Rin said the case had been passed up the chain of command, and now rested with the provincial police chief.
The officer in question, Piseth, had not returned to work at the commune and was under investigation at the provincial police headquarters, Rin said.
National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun, however, said on Tuesday that no action had been taken because the incident was only a “warning shot.” Police would wait for the court to make a decision, he said.
“It is not that police shot the youth. Police were patrolling and the two young men did not allow a check and had a fight and escaped. Then there was a warning shot and it ricocheted and hit,” Kim Khoeun said.
Soum Chankea, Adhoc’s provincial coordinator, said the rights group considered the incident to be a case of serious abuse.
“We determined it is a serious human rights violation because it was a state agent on duty and it was not self-protection,” Chankea said, adding that he hoped the officer would be held accountable under the law.
Following an investigation into a separate case of alleged police brutality in Prey Veng province, Interior Minister Sar Kheng and National Police chief Neth Savoeun announced demotions for seven provincial anti-drug officers for violating police discipline in multiple cases.
In five letters dated from last month, Kheng and Savoeun demoted, transferred or warned Pov Chivoan, Touch Theara, Thorng Vandy, Sy Bo, Heng Chanratana, Siek Chanthoeun and Yun Daraphors following suspensions.
None were removed from the force.
Additional reporting by Ouch Sony
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer.)