Authorities in Prey Veng province are searching for a group of rogue military police officers who shot at, tied up and beat two local truckers who drove through a pair of checkpoints without stopping while transporting a load of rice along National Road 11 on Thursday night, officials said Sunday.
Nen Sida, 30, a truck driver, and Thoeun Noeub, 20, his assistant, were stopped by military police in Prey Veng’s Svay Antor district at about 11 p.m. after crashing into a car and then blowing through the two checkpoints, including a mobile weigh station, in Thbong Khmum province’s O’Reang-ou district, according to Svay Antor police chief Pum Kan.
Mr. Kan, who joined the chase after receiving word of the initial collision, said Thbong Khmum military police manning the checkpoints unsuccessfully attempted to shoot out the cargo truck’s tires, but that members of the provincial force to the south took a more active approach to stopping the vehicle.
“We saw the Prey Veng provincial military police driving a vehicle with a siren, chasing behind the truck and firing at it many times,” he said, adding that the military police then overtook the truck and began shooting at the driver through the front windshield with AK-47 assault rifles.
Mr. Kan said that when he caught up with the military police a few minutes later, at about 11 p.m., they had already pulled the two men from the truck and bound their hand and feet with chains. Both had bruised and bloodied faces, he said.
“The military police tried to hand over the pair to my police force, but I refused because I was afraid my police would be accused of using violence against them,” he said, adding that the bound men were nevertheless dropped off outside the Svay Antor district police station by the rogue military police officers.
Mr. Sida, the truck driver, gave a very different account of Thursday night’s events, saying that he only drove through the two checkpoints because he traveled the road often, and believed they had been set up illegally by corrupt officers intent on extorting truckers.
He said he finally pulled over after military police fired four rounds into the front of his truck, one through the windshield.
“I stopped the truck and got out. Then one of six military police shot three times into the air and hit me in the left eye with the butt of an AK and I fell to the ground. Then they tied my arms behind my back and to my feet and kicked me in the body and stepped on my head,” Mr. Sida said, adding that his companion suffered similar abuse before both were driven to the district police station, at which point he lost consciousness.
“The military police left six people to guard me and my worker, but they were gone when I woke up at 4 a.m.,” he said.
Mr. Sida said he was treated for his injuries at the Prey Veng provincial referral hospital on Saturday and filed complaints with provincial police and local rights group Adhoc later that day.
Contacted Sunday, Prey Veng police chief Sreng Chea confirmed that the men had filed a complaint with his officers and said he had opened an investigation into the case.
“We found that…military police fired on the truck, but we are not sure who the actual shooters were,” Mr. Chea said.
“We already know that the truck drivers did wrong, but why did provincial military police stop the truck drivers and beat them?”
Eang Kimly, a coordinator for Adhoc in Prey Veng, said her organization would look into the incident, calling the treatment of the truckers a “serious human rights violation.”
However, Kheng Tito, spokesman for the National Military Police, said local authorities should refrain from pointing the finger at military police until a full investigation is completed.
“I think it’s too early to say that the military police committed violence against people and the accusation might not be completely accurate, thus we must investigate to find the truth,” he said.