In at least ten slayings and two non-fatal shootings in Kompong Cham province so far this year, police have made no arrests, the human rights group Adhoc said yesterday, calling on provincial police to take action to deal with the unsolved caseload.
The cases dating back to April include three victims whose necks were broken and nine shootings, said Phoung Sothea, an investigator for Adhoc. One of the fatal shootings and one non-fatal shooting involved police but the case files were never turned over to prosecutors to determine charges, he said.
Adhoc submitted the list of murders to provincial police on Oct 12, inquiring about progress in the cases, but has received no response.
“I sent the criminal report in order to remind them to take further action,” Mr Sothea said, adding that a lack of action had further damaged public faith in the police.
“Even though police have done their investigating, villagers are living in fear for their security due to the lack of arrests of perpetrators,” he said.
One case includes the April 16 shooting of 22-year-old Horm Vanda who was shot three times in what police called an accident. Police allege that Mr Vanda lunged at the officer accused of shooting the 22-year-old.
In another police shooting on June 12 in Suong district, the victim Khoun Narin was shot in the leg while driving his motorcycle at night. The Adhoc letter claims police were responsible for the shooting.
Deputy provincial police chief Chim Seng Hong said he had checked with his office and said it had received no such letter but that it had followed up all cases.
“When we have finished our investigations we send all the reports to the court in order to get arrest warrants,” he said. “Police are just waiting for the arrest warrants from the court. However it is the duty of the court to make the decision on these cases.”
He said he did know the number of cases referred to the courts and defended police in the shooting of Mr Vanda.
“The deputy commune chief just attempted to fire in the air in order to scare the suspect but the suspect jumped at the policeman in order to snatch his gun, which was accidentally fired,” he said.
In the case of Mr Narin, he said the man was shot during a firefight between police and a band of thieves.
“The victim was around there and was injured, but we could not identify whether he was shot by police or a group of robbers,” he said.
Provincial prosecutor Hout Vuthy declined to comment on the cases, while Judge Ith Sothy, president of the provincial court, could not be reached.
Chan Soveth, Adhoc’s chief monitor, said the high number of unsolved shootings suggested impunity by the powerful.
“Normal people can not have weapons, only powerful men get them from government officials,” he said. “Police competence is limited so offenders go free.”
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith defended the record of Kompong Cham provincial police, saying that many people had been arrested in slayings this year. Mr Chantharith did not have any available data on the number of arrests made.
“We do strictly control all the weapons which have to be registered,” he said, adding that not all guns were accounted for. He said that many guns in Cambodia were not in the hands of the powerful and were remnants from wartime.