Land-Clearing Suspect Injured by RCAF Fire

A tractor driver in Kampot pro­vince suspected of illegally clearing land was injured Wednesday after RCAF soldiers opened fire on his and another tractor when they ap­parently failed to obey a command to halt, officials said Thursday.

A district forestry official claimed that the injured man, Tem Ra, 20, had been injured by hitting his head on the tractor, but the injured man’s brother said that Tem Ra’s head was grazed by a bullet fired by a soldier.

The shooting started at about 1:30 pm in Chhuk district’s Tra­paing Phlaing commune when one soldier opened fire in an attempt to stop the tractors, acting commune police chief Ou Han said.

One soldier used a handgun in an effort to take out the tires of the tractors. Three other soldiers then also opened fire, spraying the tractors with bullets, he said. Once the tractors’ tires were flat, the soldiers ad­vanced on the vehicles, trying to pull the drivers out, Ou Han said.

The Forestry Administration has been working hard to fight illegal deforestation in the area, district Forestry Administration chief Chor Vangly said.

The tractors had been asked to stop because officials suspected they were being used to clear forest, and the Forestry Administration wanted to investigate, Chor Vangly said. The drivers had attempted to get away from the officials and that was when the shooting started, he said, adding, however, that no shoot­ing had been aimed at people.

The two drivers, Tem Ra and his brother, Prak Heng, 25, claim they had been plowing farmland in Prey Leav village when they were ap­proached by the Forest Administra­tion and told to stop.

On Thursday, Prak Heng said they had done what the officials ask­ed and left the land, but the shoot­ing started about 1 km from the village when the soldiers show­ed up.

“One soldier took a handgun and shot at my brother, and another pulled me out of my tractor,” Prak Heng claimed. “He tried to shoot my brother to death, but the gun ran out of bullets and my brother used his left arm to parry [the gun].”

Tem Ra was taken to the hospital after a bullet grazed his head and he was unconscious for a while, Prak Heng said.

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