Court Refuses to Investigate Complaint Over Police Shooting

A student who filed a complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against the city’s municipal and military police chiefs over the fatal police shooting at the SL Garment Factory protest on November 12 said Tuesday that the court has refused to investigate his complaint.

Neang Sokhun, a 25-year-old law student, said a court official had told him that his complaint, which concerns the shooting death by police of 49-year-old street food vendor Eng Sokhom, had been sent instead to the National Police for investigation.

“The court seemed to ignore my case and not take it seriously. They said they sent the case to the National Police and that they will wait for the police to investigate first,” said Mr. Sokhun, who is also a member of the opposition CNRP’s youth organization.

“I think they’re trying to keep my complaint hidden, but I do not understand the court process.”

Mr. Sokhun said court officials had only informed him of the forwarding of his complaint, which he lodged two days after the protest shooting, when he went to the court to inquire about its status.

Municipal court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said that the complaint had in fact been passed on to the Ministry of Interior, but declined to comment further.

Spokespeople for the Ministry of Interior and National Police could not be reached for comment.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that municipal court investigators—and not the National Police or Ministry of Interior—were obligated to look into the case as the complaint against the police chiefs concerns a potential crime.

Mr. Sokhun’s legal complaint against municipal police chief Chuon Sovann and municipal military police chief Lieutenant General Roth Srean cites Article 204 of the Penal Code in accusing the pair of being responsible for Eng Sokhom’s death.

Article 204 of the Penal Code pertains to “murder committed by public officials…in the performance of his or her duties or in connection therewith.”

One of the victims of the police shooting, Ty Sophanith, 31, who was shot through the leg and arm, said that two people—one wearing civilian clothes and one wearing a white National Police uniform—had come to his room at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital around 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“They asked for my identification and asked for the bullets. They took my phone number and asked me to give my thumb print on a report—they told me they had come to do a report about the incident,” Mr. Sophanith said.

“I was worried about my safety after the police came to ask me about this incident.”

Separately, a November 15 government order for the SL Garment Factory to reinstate 19 fired union activists within 15 days or else face punitive measures also remained unheeded Tuesday, according to the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union.

Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, reiterated that the order would be enforced if need be.

“If the company is still refusing [to rehire] them, we will move onto the second step to implement the law,” Mr. Mean said, declining to elaborate on how the ministry would enforce the order.

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

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