Geneva-based legal aid NGO International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) has called for a full investigation after one of its Cambodian investigators was shot and killed by a military police officer during a drinking session in Kandal province on Friday night, the victim’s father-in-law and police said Monday.
Houn Bunnith, a 33-year-old father of three, was allegedly killed by provincial military police captain Reab Bun Song, 30, when he confronted the latter about an illegal gambling operation the officer was allegedly running from his snooker hall business, the victim’s father-in-law, Ouk Vandeth, said Monday.
Mr. Vandeth said the military police officer reportedly fled to Vietnam after the shooting.
“My son-in-law was killed in Kandal during a visit to his family,” said Mr. Vandeth, who is also the country manager for IBJ.
“He knew about many illegal businesses that the suspect had done. So the suspect was angry with my son and killed my son. Now I heard he ran away to Vietnam.”
Reached by telephone in Geneva, IBJ special projects director Brian Rohan said staff at IBJ were deeply saddened by the incident.
“Most important for IBJ is that there be a full and proper investigation, and the perpetrator brought to justice,” Mr. Rohan said.
Mr. Vandeth said investigating illegal businesses is not a part of IBJ’s mandate, and that his son-in-law must have raised the topic in a personal capacity, which preceded his killing at the snooker hall at about 8 p.m.
He said he did not know if his son-in-law had threatened to expose the alleged gambling operation.
IBJ has operated in Cambodia since 2006 and has 36 staff, according to its website. It provides legal aid services in 13 provinces, trains lawyers and campaigns against torture in prisons.
Reached by telephone, Takhmao City police chief Sim Butbundith said the military police officer had organized a Khmer New Year party at his snooker hall at 3 p.m. and that the last partygoer had just left when the shooting occurred.
“The witness at that point left the house, then when he heard the sound of a gun, he found the victim slumped on the table covered in blood,” Mr. Butbundith said, adding the suspected shooter then took Houn Bunnith to a private clinic by motorbike about 300 meters away.
“The clinic would not admit the victim, so the suspect dropped him at the front [door] and then ran away,” he said.
According to his biography on the IBJ website, Houn Bunnith had been working as a provincial investigator in Battambang province and had previously worked for IBJ in Banteay Meanchey and Prey Veng provinces.
National Military Police Spokesman Kheng Tito said he had not heard about the shooting. “After Khmer New Year I will ask around,” he said.