baray district, Kompong Thom province – A man who was apparently injured in a shootout with police went missing shortly after he was detained, sparking fears among human rights officials that he has since died.
Witnesses told human rights workers that So Din was last seen by his neighbors May 21 as he was driven away on the back of a motorcycle, naked and bleeding from at least two gunshot wounds.
“Since then he has disappeared,” said a human rights official in the province, who asked for anonymity. “We do not know whether he is alive or dead.”
Provincial Deputy police Chief Kim An said So Din escaped from the police and his whereabouts are unknown.
“We failed to arrest him,” said Kim An.
So Din was wanted on a Kompong Cham court warrant for robbery, stealing and kidnapping when police went to his house in Chra Neang village, Chra Lorng commune to arrest him at around 9 pm, said Kim An.
Witnesses said So Din was under his house when police asked a woman to call him out on the pretense that his neighbors wanted to gamble with him.
When he emerged from under the house, a police officer shot at him three times with a pistol from about 10 meters away, witnesses told human rights officials.
So Din ran across National Route 6 into bushes on the other side as more police officers opened fire, with some 10 officers firing pistols at him, witnesses said.
“Witnesses who saw this said he shouted from the bushes ‘Please, mother, help me. I am injured in the stomach,’” the human rights official said.
Police fished him out of the bushes and put him on a motorcycle to be driven away, witnesses said. So Din was bleeding badly. His krama fell off as he was loaded onto the motorcycle.
His krama had two bullet holes in it, witnesses said.
A district police official had a slightly different story about So Din’s arrest, saying police started to shoot only after the suspect hurled a grenade at them.
When police called him out of his house, he allegedly threw a grenade at them, but it was a dud and did not explode, Kim An said. Police then began shooting at him, the deputy chief said.
“We have the right to protect ourselves. We did not allow him to kill us,” said Kim An.
An Adhoc human rights investigator said police should not have shot at So Din.
“It violates the law because the court’s warrant was issued for his arrest and does not allow for the use of violence,” the investigator said.
“There are three warrants to arrest him, but he always escapes from police hands,” said Kim An. “We do not know where he is.”
Human rights officials said they had not yet met So Din’s wife and were still unsure what had happened to him. But they said they are concerned he is now dead.