Two municipal anti-drug police officer died and three fellow officers were shot and seriously injured during a drug bust gone wrong Tuesday morning, police said.
The five undercover officers had arrested Kep Samon, 27, in a room at the Ly Meng Thmei guesthouse in Daun Penh district’s Phsar Thmei II commune, after allegedly finding him with a bag of crystal methamphetamine, municipal police chief Touch Naruth said.
Though his hands were cuffed in front of him, Kep Samon allegedly reached inside his trousers and pulled out a concealed Colt-45 pistol and proceeded to shoot the five arresting officers, hitting Chhoeung Virak, 36, in the chest and killing him instantly, Touch Naruth said.
Anti-drug unit officer Sreng Bunareth, 37, later died in Calmette Hospital at around 6 amWednesday from a bullet wound to his stomach, municipal anti-drug police chief Touch Muysor said.
“We are very sorry for Sreng Bunareth’s death. He was with our anti-drug police for 10 years,” he said.
Officer Soeung Yutha, 37, was shot in the stomach, Chi Bunleng, 25, was shot in the knee and Ung Chanthy, 35, was shot three times—in his elbow, buttocks and back, Touch Naruth said.
“Our police officers were careless and didn’t check his body,” Touch Naruth said, adding that the shooter, who had exhausted his bullets, was nabbed by municipal penal police as he attempted to flee the guesthouse.
The three wounded officers are being treated at Calmette Hospital, and are in stable condition, he added.
Daun Penh district police chief Yim Socheat said that Kep Samon is now in the custody of municipal anti-drug police.
Lour Ramin, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said that officers in the anti-drug unit are well trained.
“We send officers to Thailand for training with the US [Drug Enforcement Agency] and the UN [Office on Drugs and Crime],” he said, but added that those training sessions usually focus on investigations and not arrests.
Lars Pedersen, officer in charge of the UNODC Cambodia project office, said that in general the skill levels of police officers are low.
“In many cases frontline officers throughout Cambodia have basically just been put in a uniform and asked to do a job,” he said.
Lour Ramin, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said Wednesday that the shooting was the first of its kind and added that his department is doing its best to learn from the fatal incident.
“We’ve never seen drug dealers kill police like this,” Lour Ramin said. “The problem occurred because of the carelessness of the police, but it is also a valuable lesson for us.”
(Additional eporting by James Welsh)