Commander Fired in Military Police Probe

Court officials are investigating military policemen whose alleged bullying of the Phnom Penh judiciary and beating of suspects this month outraged Justice Minister Chem Snguon and prompted Saturday’s removal of a senior commander.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court judges on Monday began questioning Colonel Mean Eng about the role of his troops in the al­legedly forcible re-arrest and imprisonment of two government employees earlier this month.

Mean Eng lost his job as commander of the military police’s Phnom Penh forces.

“We are investigating to implicate those who tortured the two government officials and those who ordered the torture,” said Kong Seb, an investigating judge for the court. “We are going to find justice for the citizens.”

A Ministry of Justice letter written to the two prime ministers resulted in the removal of Mean Eng and the suspension of four of his subordinates, National Mili­tary Police Deputy Com­mander Sao Sokha said Tuesday.

One foreign security adviser hailed “the strong decision” to rein in a well-networked gendarmerie that human rights and military experts accuse of systematic involvement in unlawful activities, including the armed protection of shipments of contraband.

A foreign legal expert said the inquiry is likely the result of Chem Snguon exerting pressure to reduce the “the rule of gun” climate which has handcuffed court officials seeking to prosecute the police and military.

Military police are being taken to task over their actions surrounding a June 10 Phnom Penh Municipal Court hearing, when they allegedly surrounded the court with guns drawn and for­cibly reversed the prosecutor’s decision to free two suspects.

The families of Keo Phirak, 24, and Yeng Lieng Hy, 26, on June 13 complained to the court that military policemen illegally arrested and re-arrested the men for the May shooting of a military policeman, Kong Seb said.

The family also charged that military police beat the men into confession and violated article 51 of the Civil Servants Act, which dictates that government employees cannot be arrested without their superior’s ap­proval.

The men are employed in the Finance Ministry and are subordinates of Chhay Than, a CPP un­dersecretary of state, family members said. Keo Phirak is the godson of Kompong Cham First Dep­uty Governor Kang Sean.

Yet Chariya, the court’s deputy prosecutor, has said he freed the men because police made an illegal arrest and did not present enough evidence for prosecution.

Oung Depor, deputy commander for the municipal military police, has acknowledged they were arrested without a warrant.

But the colonel has defended the military police’s actions, saying the decision was mistaken and the family brought with them 20 to 30 undercover armed men to pressure court officials into re­leasing the suspects. In addition, an investigation produced three witnesses who identified the suspects as accessories to the shooting, Oung De­por has said.

Chem Snguon on June 12 said he would investigate the court’s allegations the military police used force to reverse the decision.

Among the suspended policemen were Colonel Oung Depor and Colonel Ok Mara, both dep­uties to Mean Eng. General Chhin Chanpor, chief of Siha­noukville Military Police, on Mon­day said he would take up the commander’s post today.

(Report­ing by Saing Soenthrith, Marc Levy and Khuy Sokhoeun)

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