The family of one of the several men killed in last week’s uprising said Tuesday his alleged rebel activities were news to them, while his boss maintains he must have been a terrorist because he appears to have been heavily armed when he died.
Oum Channy, a 38-year-old father of eight, apparently died from a blow to the head outside the Ministry of Rural Development during a fierce gun battle early Friday. Dozens of men claiming to be members of an anti-government group stormed the area of Pochentong Boulevard between the train station and the Ministry of Defense.
After a nearly two-hour firefight with municipal police, reportedly eight people were killed, though municipal officials Monday said only four people died in the worst fighting in the city since 1997. More than a dozen police and others were injured in the fray.
Sok Neardey, chief commander of the military escort that accompanies Cambodian trains, said Oum Channy was a militia supervisor on the Phnom Penh-to-Battambang line. He had served in the railway militia since 1987.
After the fighting, Oum Channy’s body was found near the Ministry of Rural Development on Pochentong Boulevard, between the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Defense, Sok Neardey said.
Although Oum Channy’s militia weapons were properly stowed at the station, Sok Neardey claimed to see a picture of his former employee’s corpse in the Khmer-language press, still heavily armed and strewn with ammunition. “I think he was summoned by the ringleader to join the rebel force,” Sok Neardey said. “I had no idea he was involved in anything like this.”
Sok Neardey said Oum Channy arrived as usual Thursday night aboard the train from Battambang, checked his weapons in at militia headquarters at the station and went home.
The train, due in at 6 pm, actually arrived between 7 pm and 8 pm, he said. Me Nhanh, Oum Channy’s mother-in-law, said he came home as usual to his modest wooden house in a squatter village behind the railway station.
The neighborhood is a warren of cluttered dirt lanes that link flimsy buildings in Srah Chak commune. Oum Channy’s house is about 3 meters from the track.
Me Nhanh said he bathed, changed his clothes and ate dinner before telling his wife, Yos Chanbuny, that he wanted to visit his girlfriend one more time.
Me Nhanh was not sure what time he left the house.
Neighbors said they heard loud gunfire later that night, so loud that they were very frightened. Yos Chanbuny did not realize her husband might be involved until the next morning, when he had not returned.
On Saturday, his wife discovered his corpse at Wat Preah Put. She said he appeared to have been shot in the leg and struck on the arm and head with what looked like a rifle butt.
Me Nhanh said the family was surprised when they heard the news. “He never talked about politics,” she said. “He was very gentle, and he always took care of the neighbors. They are very disappointed that he was killed.”