Forty guards at the Chamkar Andaung Rubber Plantation in Kompong Cham province have been replaced with policemen following Friday’s fatal shooting of Phlech Nol, a plantation worker suspected of stealing rubber, plantation official said.
Phlech Nol was shot dead by a plantation guard as he was allegedly attempting to steal 5 kg of resin. On Saturday, the company paid the victim’s family $250 and contributed two sacks of rice toward the funeral, police said.
Police confiscated 15 AK-47 assault rifles from the guards Saturday at the request of provincial Governor Hun Neng, and have replaced the guards with police officers.
Each of Kompong Cham’s six rubber plantations will soon be guarded by policemen instead of private armed guards, said Hun Neng. Some already are and the others will have to follow suit, he added.
“I provided money and rice for the funeral so this thing is over,” Chamkar Andaung Plantation Director Lim Chhun Leang said.
“We didn’t expect this to happen but it did. It was an accident,” he said, adding that he expects the controversy from the shooting to soon dissipate.
He also defended the plantation’s use of armed guards.
“In the past, we have needed armed men…because thieves sneaked up with machetes.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Sunday that compensation for the victim was not enough.
“I can assure you that the perpetrator must face trial,” he said. “The lives of the people cannot be sold in the market.”
Chan Soveth, a monitoring section officer with the rights group Adhoc, alleged on Monday that police had reacted slowly, enabling the alleged shooter, 38-year-old guard On Sok Heng, to flee.
He also said that he had received unconfirmed reports that police were seeking to arrest demonstrators, who after the shooting set fire to a guardhouse at the plantation on Friday night.
Provincial and district police officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
According to Adhoc, there were 10 cases of armed plantation guards attacking people in Kompong Cham province last year, of which two led to fatal shootings.