Local human rights group Adhoc called on Friday for an investigation into allegations that a police officer punched and kicked a woman he found playing cards and then brandished his weapons when people tried to intervene to stop the alleged assault.
The officer, a member of the provincial border police unit in Banteay Meanchey, identified only by his first name Seour, could not be contacted for comment. However, his commanding officer at border police unit 891 Ham Vannak said that the beating of the woman was in line with the officer’s duty to prevent illegal gambling.
The woman who was allegedly beaten was a well-known gambler who had encouraged the police officer’s wife on many occasions to go gambling, Mr Vannak said.
“At present I am denying that my officer did anything wrong regarding the alleged violence,” he said.
“I just want the [woman] to not sue [my officer]. She should come here to resolve this matter because she has also committed a crime by gambling, which is banned,” he said.
Leng Neou, 45, said on Friday that the officer attacked her when she was unable to tell the policeman where his wife had gone.
“When I told him I didn’t know where his wife was he ran into me with his motorcycle and grabbed my hair,” Ms Neou said. “After grabbing my hair really tight he punched and kicked me several times,” she said, adding that the officer also brandished his pistol and loaded a bullet in order to threaten other card players not to intervene.
In her complaint to Adhoc, Ms Neou also accused the officer of stealing cash and a mobile phone from her during the alleged assault.
Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said on Friday that being caught gambling did not give the officer the right to assault the suspect.
“The role of the police is to protect the public,” Mr Chankea said.