Military Police Officer Puts Gun to Head of District Governor

A military police officer pulled a gun and pointed it at the head of a district governor Thursday morning when authorities stopped his car at checkpoint in Mondolkiri province set up to intercept illegally smuggled wood, officials said.

The incident happened shortly after 4.30 a.m. during a joint operation by police, military police and Forestry Administration officers on National Road 76 in Keo Seima district, according to district governor Sin Vanvuth.

“First, our team of multiple forces stopped an SUV Lexus 450 and discovered 16 pieces of luxury Neang Nuon logs, however the driver escaped,” he said, adding that they moved the car from the road and confiscated the keys.

Shortly afterward, a second SUV, a Lexus 470, approached the same spot and the driver slowed and brought the car to a stop.

“When he got out of the car, he walked straight toward me but suddenly he pulled a handgun and placed it against my head and demanded that I give him the keys of the confiscated car—it was a serious threat,” Mr. Vanvuth said.

The district governor did not have the keys of the car on his person and the gunman, identified as local military police officer Sou Marith, was convinced by other military police officials to remove the gun from Mr. Vanvuth’s head. He then got back into his SUV and sped away from the scene.

“Police did not dare to open fire on the fleeing vehicle because there were villagers standing nearby and local residences near to the scene,” he said.

Deputy provincial court prosecutor Sor Vuthy said that at the request of the Forestry Administration, he and police went to Mr. Marith’s home in Sre Khtum commune and discovered a large but unspecified amount of illegal luxury wood.

“We searched his residence and found lots of wood there, but he was already gone,” he said. Three workers employed at the residence have been questioned and the quantity of wood has been measured, he added.

Brigadier General Kheng Tito, spokesman for the military police, said Thursday that the military police are investigating Mr. Marith.

“He is now under investigation,” he said, noting that using a handgun for the purposes of intimidation was a serious offense.

“Military police are responsible for implementing the law, so when they commit a criminal offense they face serious penalties within the organization and in the courts,” he said.

Neither provincial Forestry Administration chief Kep Kot nor his deputy, Khieu Rithphoan, could be reached Thusday for comment.

In February, police searched the house of Brigadier General Chhit Meng Sreng, who is commander of the provincial RCAF sub-region and also lives in Sre Khtum commune, and found illegal luxury wood on the property. However, no arrest was made.

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