Anti-Drug Police Chief Heng Peo escorted a policeman with a bullet wound to Vietnam the same day a journalist in Phnom Penh was attacked, police files say.
The trip is being used as part of the Interior Ministry’s case for suspending its most senior anti-narcotics officer. The ministry’s case alleges that Heng Peo ordered a policeman, his nephew, to kill journalist Thong Uypang. The police file is expected to be used as the government’s case against Heng Peo if the case goes to court, police officials said.
Just to make the case more confusing, the co-Ministers of the Interior last week also suspended the policeman investigating Heng Peo. Mok Chito, chief of police for foreigners, conducted the five-month investigation.
The two high-ranking CPP police officials have been conducting a public and potentially embarrassing feud in the pages of local newspapers.
Mok Chito said on Tuesday that he is accused of shooting a man suspected of robbery in O’Russei market in 1995. Interior officials would not comment on Mok Chito’s case. Mok Chito said Tuesday he hopes to be cleared of the charges.
Publicly at least, the Interior Ministry is washing its hands of the two suspended police chiefs, referring questions about their fate to lawyers.
“We suspended them so the court can investigate them. It’s up to the courts now,” co-Minister of the Interior You Hockry said.
The investigation into Heng Peo centers around a June 8 attack in Phnom Penh on Thong Uypang, publisher of the pro-CPP Koh Santepheap (Island of Peace) newspaper. Thong Uypang was shot in the shoulder and chest but survived. His bodyguard got a bullet in the chest.
Eyewitnesses reported the assailant was also wounded in the arm when Thong Uypang’s driver shot at the attacker as he tried to escape.
A passenger list from Royal Air Cambodge and Vietnamese hospital records show that Heng Peo took Heng Veng, 26, to Ho Chi Minh City on June 8 to be treated for a bullet wound to the elbow.
According to police statements from RAC officials in Phnom Penh and from an ambulance driver called in to pick up the wounded man in Vietnam, Heng Peo said his nephew “was shot by a thief in Kandal province.”
Heng Veng was admitted June 8 for a bullet wound in the elbow, hospital records from Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City show. He was discharged June 13.
Thong Uypang and his family said they identified Heng Veng from photographs as their assailant.
Heng Veng said on Wednesday he has not been suspended and is “working every day.” When asked about the allegations that Heng Peo ordered him to shoot Thong Uypang, he said, “Please call the Interior Ministry.” Heng Peo could not be reached for comment.
In Thong Uypang’s statement to police, signed by Mok Chito on Aug 13, the publisher said Heng Peo was angry with him because of several articles he wrote blaming the drug police chief for attacking his home.
Thong Uypang has been one of Heng Peo’s most vocal critics, using his newspaper to blast the drug chief on a nearly daily basis since the shooting in June.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday asked journalists to allow them to fight their battles in court.
“They have disputes because of speaking to the papers,” Hun Sen told reporters. “We want to remove them from their jobs and leave the case to the court. This is the good way. Otherwise this will continue until the year 2020 and it won’t finish.”
Thong Uypang said he will continue to print articles about Heng Peo until “he is in prison because the government is careless about this case.”