After Police Shooting, Suspects Sent to Court

Police are still refusing to name the officer who shot an unarmed motorbike driver in the leg in Phnom Penh on Thursday, as the driver and passenger were sent to the municipal court over the weekend for questioning over packets of crystal methamphetamine allegedly found inside the motorbike.

Iv Chhunpheng, deputy police chief in Russei Keo district, where the shooting occurred, said the pair was questioned twice at the municipal court over the weekend about accusations of drug possession, but he did not know if they had been charged.

Mr. Chhunpheng declined to name the officer who fired his gun, but defended his colleague’s action, claiming he was acting in self-defense. He said the shot was fired amid a scuffle as police attempted to pull over the men, who physically resisted.

“Based on my understanding, it is not wrong because of the resisting,” he said. “If the police shot, it is not wrong because they were fighting back against authorities who protected themselves.”

Asked later in the day for more information about the shooting, Mr. Chhunpheng asked a reporter why he was so interested in the case.

“Why do you pay attention to this case? What about the arrests of suspects in thefts and robberies, why don’t you ask about that?” he said. “I sent the case to court already. Whatever action the court will take, I don’t know. That’s all.”

Court officials could not be reached on Sunday.

The shooting victim, Oeun Sotheara, 30, had been driving with Uth Sarneang, 25, when police flagged him down because his motorbike did not have a license plate. He initially slowed down but then sped away, prompting officers to chase him and eventually shoot him in the right calf.

Sok Sam Oeun, a prominent human rights lawyer, said the case did not appear to meet the threshold for “self-defense.”

“I do not know the true facts, what the boy did, I do not know details about that,” he said. “But in this case, I don’t think the two boys did any shooting. If like this, it is not self-defense.”

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