Flirtation Triggers Shootout in Phnom Penh

Military police have arrested a man involved in a shootout in central Phnom Penh on Sunday night and are still searching for three other suspects, some of whom may be soldiers, officials and a witness said on Monday.

Daun Penh district military police commander Thorng Piseth said the man they arrested had been drinking beer at a roadside stall on Street 154 with two friends before the shootout, which occurred at about 11 p.m.

“We detained one person, who is the friend of the two other men who got into trouble while drinking beer on the street; we sent him to the Phnom Penh military police station to investigate and find the other people,” he said.

Mr. Piseth said he did not know the man’s name or what led to the shootout, but suggested that some of the suspects might have been members of government security forces.

“It’s normal that when there’s an argument there’s shooting,” he said. “And you should understand that normal people never have guns.”

National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said he knew the arrested man only as Sa.

“We are looking for the people involved in the shooting to question them and find out the reason for this incident. There is nothing more to say right now,” he said.

Khem Saray, who runs the street-side stall where the men had been drinking, said the dispute began when one of them began to flirt with a woman passing by on the street.

“After 10 minutes, the boyfriend of the woman came and pointed a gun at the three of them and told them not to fool around with his girl and then walked away,” he said.

“Then one of the three men asked his friend to get two guns out of his Tundra,” Mr. Saray said. “Then they followed the man who came by himself, but the man saw the two others following him and shot one time when they were 5 meters apart.”

Mr. Saray said the boyfriend missed, and that one of the two friends fired back, hitting him in the leg. He said the boyfriend then fired again, hitting one of the friends in the arm.

“I had more than 20 customers and they got scared and ran away,” he said.

Mr. Saray said the two friends made away in the Toyota truck, but not before passing one of their guns to the third friend, who was drunk and remained at his stall until police arrived about 30 minutes later and arrested him.

He said the truck had a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces license plate.

Though many soldiers affix military plates to their vehicles, many such plates are also fake, or used by the soldiers’ friends or relatives.

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