Soldier in Custody Over Shooting Alleged Thief

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Cambodian soldiers take part in a military training exercise in May 2019 (Hun Manet’s Facebook page)
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A soldier fatally shot a man on a Phnom Penh sidewalk after joining police officers in chasing an alleged thief, police said.

The soldier confessed and his case is now being investigated by the courts.

Sen Sok district’s Phnom Penh Thmey commune police chief Koe Santhoth said that police were in pursuit of a man believed to have broken into a residence for theft.

People were shouting “thief, thief” as police chased the man, Rithy Chetra, 24, on Wednesday. The soldier, Sao Sokhon, 40, was driving past in a car and got out to help the authorities, Santhoth said.

“But in helping, he didn’t have enough technique which caused [his gun to] fire. According to witnesses, he fired into the ground but the bullet ricocheted,” he said on Friday.

There was only one shot, Santhoth said, but Chetra was hit in the middle of his back and collapsed after continuing for about 200 meters. Chetra died shortly after the shooting, he said. 

“His intention was not to shoot the victim. He just wanted to make an intervention, but he did not have enough technique to help,” he said. “The person who tried to help has now become the suspect.”

Santhoth added that an autopsy of the alleged thief found drugs in his system.

After police surrounded his house the next day, Sokhon confessed to the shooting, according to local media.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesperson San Sokseyha said Sokhon was a colonel in the military, and had been driving a black Lexus SUV at the time and was armed with a pistol.

Sen Sok district police had built a case against him and sent it to court, Sokseyha said.

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