Governor’s Convoy Accused of Opening Fire

Police and military police traveling with a Phnom Penh Muni­cipality delegation, led by Gover­nor Kep Chukte­ma, have been accused of opening fire Thursday on po­lice and forestry officials in Kom­pong Cham province who tried to inspect a truck suspected of transporting illegal timber.

Kep Chuktema, denying allegations that his convoy shot first, demanded an investigation by the Agriculture Ministry, claiming forestry officials acted illegally and that his delegation was fired on without reason.

The chase across three pro­vinces to stop the suspect truck be­gan mid-Thursday in Preah Vihear provincial capital Tbeng Mean­chey and ended Thursday evening with gunfire near Skun town in Kom­pong Cham province, forest­ry and po­lice officials alleged.

No one was injured, but the For­estry Department alleges that one of its cars had its tires shot out and an official was kicked by mem­bers of the governor’s convoy.

Pol Kham Nare, deputy chief of the forestry department’s northern Tonle Sap lake region, said on Friday that the chase began when officials were informed that timber was being loaded onto a truck near the Preah Vihear temple.

Preah Vihear forestry officials went to investigate, but were unable to inspect the truck as it had joined the Phnom Penh Mu­nicipality’s convoy, he said.

Forestry officials, economic police and commune police were notified in neighboring Kompong Thom province and a roadblock was set up to stop the truck, Pol Kham Nare said.

But after the truck was stopped, he said, police and military police traveling with the Phnom Penh delegation brandished weapons.

“A senior official from Phnom Penh ordered the arrest of the [local] officials…. They have many guns and the [local] officials did not have many guns so they just ran away,” he said.

Kroch Sarith, a forestry department section chief for Kompong Cham province, said Friday that the convoy next entered his area of jurisdiction on its route back to Phnom Penh, and that forestry officials stopped the sus­pect truck near Skun town by driv­ing a vehicle in front of the truck.

But several Toyota Land Cruis­ers with the Phnom Penh delegation arrived from behind the truck carrying police and military police who opened fire on the parked forestry official’s car with an AK 47 rifle, Kroch Sarith alleged.

“Then they pointed their guns at all the [local] officials and confiscated a commune police officer’s gun. And [a military police officer] kicked me two times and I fell down to the ground. The other officials ran away,” said Kroch Sarith.

Automatic weapons were also shot in the air from a delegation ve­hicle further down the road. “We did not stop the delegation’s car, we just stopped the truck transporting illegal timber, according to our superiors’ or­ders,” he said.

“This is very brutal,” he said. “I have never seen this before. They drove Land Cruisers. They wear government uniforms but they acted very shamefully.”

Neang Heng, Cheung Prey district police chief, said Friday the forestry officials, economic police and commune po­lice were at­tacked by the security as­signed to the Phnom Penh convoy.

“We can stop, but cannot detain the truck because they had too many people and too many guns,” Neang Heng said.

“The truck was full of timber… we just want to inspect it. Why did they deny to stop?” he asked.

Governor Kep Chuktema said he has filed a report with the Ministry of Agriculture demanding an investigation of the incident.

After his entourage was stopped in Kom­­pong Thom, Kep Chukte­ma said, he visited the governor’s of­fice and they were allowed to con­tinue. But, at the border of Kom­pong Thom and Kompong Cham pro­vince his delegation was stopped again and shots were fired by people who blocked the road.

‘They fired on my delegation,” he said, adding that the allegations of illegal timber should have been pursued in a lawful manner.

“I need them to [follow] the procedure of the law,” he said. “I have the right…. The officials were on a mission.”

 

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