The deputy commander of Phnom Penh’s military police was chased by armed men and shot to death in the grounds of a pagoda on Street 178 early Sunday evening, police and witnesses said.
As many as 10 shots were fired shortly before 5:30 pm, when the victim, identified as Lieutenant Colonel Reth Nika, 27, fled a black S-Class Mercedes on foot after the car was caught in traffic on Street 178 in Daun Penh district’s Chey Chumneah commune, witnesses reported.
Two assailants pursued the victim, and two other men who fled the Mercedes, into Wat Saravorn, where Reth Nika was shot five times in the head, right hand and legs, they said.
Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said police arrested a suspect who was handed over to military police. He declined to comment on a motive for the shooting.
Neither Military Police Commander Sao Sokha nor Municipal Military Police Commander Ya Kim Y could be reached Sunday evening. However a Municipal Military Police official confirmed the dead man’s identity.
“The victim, Reth Nika, a former Military Police deputy chief in Kandal province, was a Municipal Military Police deputy chief,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.
A sculptor working at a shop on Street 178, which was packed with pedestrians and traffic when the shooting broke out, said that seven to eight men in a Mitsubishi SUV pursued the Mercedes, ramming it three times after it had exited Norodom Boulevard onto Street 178.
The attackers in the SUV shot three times into passenger windows of the Mercedes, said the sculptor who requested anonymity.
Three of the Mercedes’ occupants then fled into the pagoda where two pursuers fired five more times, the sculptor said. “It was like a cowboy film,” he added.
Phnom Penh resident Mathieu Pellerin, 27, said that after fleeing the pagoda, the two assailants dove head first into the open doors of the waiting SUV, which sped away on Norodom Boulevard.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)