A military policeman working for the Forestry Administration shot a woman dead in Pursat province Sunday while attempting to apprehend a group of m’reah prov oil smugglers, officials said.
But exactly what happened shortly after 11 pm in the Phnom Kravanh district forest remains unclear, with contradictory accounts being presented by the authorities.
Var Vuthy, deputy provincial military police chief, said one of his officers accidentally shot Pich Srey Mom, 27, in the head when both she and her husband Bun Vannak tried to escape from military police in a car.
Var Vuthy said the military police unit was working for the environmental group Conservation International, though CI officials could not immediately be reached for comment. M’reah prov oil, which is distilled from trees in northwestern Cambodia, is used to create cosmetics, perfumes and in the production of the drug Ecstasy.
Var Vuthy said his officers would continue investigating the incident, though the officer in question has not been arrested.
Provincial Police Chief Hem Vuthea claimed that the military police officers were beating a handcuffed Bun Vannak when Pich Srey Mom yelled at them to stop. He alleged that in response, one of the officers deliberately shot her with his AK-47 rifle.
Ouk Kimsan, Central Cardamom Protected Forest program manager for the Forestry Administration, who works in conjunction with CI, denied the police report and said the shooting was an accident.
The military police officers had received information about two cars smuggling the oil prior to the shooting, he said. After 11 pm the cars tried to break through a line of ranger motorbikes, Ouk Kimsan said, prompting the officers to try to shoot out the tires of the vehicles.
One of the rangers, who had been knocked from his bike by the speeding cars, accidentally fired a shot as he fell, which killed Pich Srey Mom, he said.