After Deaths, Details of Military Police Shootout Emerge

Five suspected drug traffickers were questioned on Thursday as military police mourned a senior officer killed during a lengthy shootout in broad daylight on Wednesday at a villa in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district, which also left a suspected drug dealer dead.

Tien Karuna, deputy chief of the military police’s anti-drug trafficking bureau, was shot dead by a suspected trafficker as officers made their first attempt to enter the Tuol Kok district villa believed to house a group of drug dealers.

At a funeral for Tien Karuna yesterday, one of the officers involved in the raid said the operation began with the arrest of two small-time drug dealers in Sen Sok district’s Trapaing Chhuok slum, notorious for being home to methamphetamine dens.

“At about 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the military police arrested two drug dealers from Trapaing Chhuok and took them to be questioned until they showed us the villa where the drug traffickers live in Tuol Kok district,” said the officer, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak with reporters.

About an hour later, roughly a dozen military police officers returned to the villa and apprehended a man outside who was suspected of being one of the dealers, bringing him inside to show them where others were hiding, the officer said.

“When the forces dragged the suspect into the house, the suspect took a gun to shoot Mr. Karuna once in the chest and the stomach, then military police inside escaped and pulled Mr. Karuna from the house,” he said, adding that the injured officer was rushed to Calmette Hospital.

Military police then regrouped and called in additional forces. When about 30 officers again entered the villa’s gate, a full-blown shootout erupted, the official said. During an hourlong firefight, a suspect was shot dead. Police eventually stormed the villa through a window.

“After [Tien Karuna] was killed, the military police got inside the house and pointed guns at [the other suspects], who were lying on the ground,” he said.

Sek Vireak, who owns a pharmacy across the street from the villa, described the chaotic scene as military police fired on the building from various positions, including from the roof of his home.

“It was like a Hong Kong film because they were shooting hundreds of bullets. Everyone living nearby had to stay in their house and close the door,” he said.

Both National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy and municipal military police commander Rath Srieng declined to name the five suspects who were being questioned on Thursday at the Phnom Penh military police headquarters.

“I can’t say anything right now because we are still investigating all the five suspects,” Brigadier General Hy said, declining to say whether any drugs were found at the house. He did say that police found four handguns and an AK-47 assault rifle in the house.

Prime Minister Hun Sen paid tribute to the slain officer during a graduation ceremony in the capital on Thursday.

“I want to share my condolences to the deputy chief of the bureau, who spent his life attempting to crack down on major drug trafficking,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “This case should increase work in continuing the crackdown on drug trafficking.”

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