Three Officers Arrested for Deputy Chief’s Death, Military Police Insist No Violence

4 min read
Military Police spokesperson Eng Hy addresses a press conference on August 17, 2022. (GRK News on Facebook)
[responsivevoice_button voice="US English Female"]

Three Kampong Thom military police officers have been arrested as part of an investigation into the death of a deputy village chief, as a spokesperson revealed that the victim’s body indicated a “lack of oxygen” but said there was no evidence of police violence. 

Suong Don, deputy chief of Rung village in Kampong Thom’s Krava commune, was declared dead on August 7 after he was taken into custody by Kampong Thom Military Police during a crackdown at a cafe allegedly hosting online gambling. His daughter claimed that police had pressed on her father’s neck during the arrest and that he died later in a Military Police vehicle. 

Twelve Military Police officers were questioned after force chief Sao Sokha ordered an investigation into Don’s death. Initial information from the Military Police said 11 officers were being questioned.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Eng Hy, a Military Police spokesperson, said that after investigating Don’s body, they had determined he was not beaten or tortured. Hy also claimed that Nearatey Din, the deputy chief’s daughter, backed off her claims that her father was strangled. 

“Her post [on Facebook] is a little wrong, but she apologized so we do not take it seriously and [would like to] clarify them that the death was not caused by the violence or torture,” he said.

Hy said that there was no evidence of police violence against the deputy village chief, but the officers should have paid greater attention to Don’s condition when he was in the back of the car. 

“The person could have died from lack of oxygen, and it is in the hands of the military police so they have to bear responsibility,” he said.

Hy said that police first had 12 suspects, which then increased to 13. Of the 13, three have been arrested for alleged manslaughter under Article 207 of the Criminal Code, and the remaining ten officers were still under investigation, Hy added. 

The arrested Military Police officers are the chief of the penal crime bureau, Sok Meng Hong; the head of judicial police, Luy Tang Chuy; and an assistant to the judicial police department, Sao Sereyvuth.

“We do not believe that 10 people have made any mistakes since they just arrested [people] and did not use violence,” he said. “If they strangled [him], he would have died immediately there…or collapsed immediately, but we could not find it.” 

If convicted of manslaughter, the three officers face up to three years in prison and fines of up to six million riel, or around $1,500. 

Nearatey, Don’s daughter, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. 

Nearatry said last week that military police officers told her the doctor who first responded to Don on August 7 had not performed an autopsy and had died of a heart attack. 

But as of Wednesday, Hy said that it was unclear if Don died of a heart attack. He said that Don’s head and the back of his neck had turned purple, indicating he may have been asphyxiated. He also noted that there were no lacerations or marks on his neck, hands, or legs, so he did not believe that violence occurred. 

Hy also released new details about their operation and Don’s arrest, adding that the cafe the military police raided had a license for online lottery, but was also operating an illegal cockfighting ring. 

Officers interviewed three other people detained in the bust, who recounted that they noticed Don was unwell and that military officers were slow to respond. 

Hy clarified that Don did not attempt to run away from the cafe as some witnesses had said, but had been intercepted by officers near the cafe and brought into a military police car with the three others. According to Hy, the car drove for about 20 minutes with the four people, and then stopped for another 20 minutes at a military checkpoint to drop off some equipment. 

The suspects in the back of the car told investigating officials that they urged officers to roll down the windows and remove handcuffs on Don, and while the officers initially did not listen to their pleas they later rolled down the windows. 

After leaving the checkpoint, the officers continued driving for about 1 kilometer until another suspect told them that Don’s eyes and jaw had frozen and believed Don was dead. When military police brought Don to the district hospital, a doctor confirmed that Don had died in the car, said the spokesperson. 

A statement published by the National Military Police on Tuesday said that two Kampong Thom military police officers — “Meng Hong” and “Tang Chuy” — had been detained after the national authorities investigated the provincial bureau for irregularities.

VOD. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission. VOD is not responsible for any infringement in all forms. The perpetrator may be subject to legal action under Cambodian laws and related laws.