Interior Ministry Official in Domestic Shooting Case Avoids Court

An Interior Ministry official was due to appear in court on Wednesday for repeatedly—and seemingly illegally—firing his AK-47 assault rifle into the air in Phnom Penh after a drunken argument with his wife, but will instead be disciplined internally, police said.

Svay Pisith, 34, who works in the ministry’s identification department, had quarreled with his wife at their home in Chbar Ampov district on Sunday evening following a beer-drinking session with friends. He fled the scene in his car with the rifle, but turned himself in at his office the next day.

He was detained at the district police station and had been due to be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court, according to Mao Soeuth, deputy district police chief.

But on Wednesday, Mr. Soeuth said officials from the ministry had arrived in the morning to take Mr. Pisith back to his department to be disciplined.

“We were following the procedure, but later the [officials from] the identification department came to take him in order to punish him under the National Police regulations on discipline,” he said.

Mr. Soeuth said the punishment would be decided upon by the ministry.

Under questioning by police, Mr. Pisith said he had lost his temper after his wife refused to drink beer with him, but later went to drink with her friends. He could not remember how many times he fired his gun, but five bullet casings were found at the scene.

Mao Chandara, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s identification department, said he was too busy to comment, referring questions to a spokesman who could not be reached. On Sunday, General Chandara said Mr. Pisith was “a normal human being,” adding “maybe the alcohol made him stupid.”

Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager at rights group Licadho, criticized the decision to punish the officer with disciplinary procedures rather than letting the courts prosecute him.

“I think it is not right,” he said. “If it is a crime, it has to be implemented according to the law.”

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