Troops guarding a rubber plantation in Pailin municipality have prevented police from investigating the disappearance of a soldier who authorities fear may have been killed, according to municipal military police.
Military and civilian police last week suspended their investigation as they have been unable to enter the rubber plantation where Im Bunny, 33, is believed to have been detained earlier this month, deputy municipal military police chief Chea Vannyvuth said Wednesday.
Local rights group Adhoc said last week that the family of Im Bunny, a soldier in the 504th Battalion of RCAF’s Region 5, had claimed Aug 16 that plantation bodyguards had arrested Im Bunny Aug 10 for the alleged theft of a handgun.
“Soldiers were deployed to prevent the investigation group from entering the plantation,” said Chea Vannyvuth. “A guard witness said [Im Bunny] was killed and buried inside the plantation.”
The plantation is operated by RCAF Major General Pol Sinuon, nephew of RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun, a member of the ruling CPP’s seven-person standing committee.
Chea Vannyvuth said authorities were hesitant to act given the plantation’s high-reaching connections.
“We are afraid with powerful people,” he said. “Only the NGOs can intervene in this case.”
Police believe Im Bunny was tortured into confessing falsely to stealing the pistol, he added.
Both Military Region 5 Commander Bun Seng and Deputy Commander Nhem Kong, who led the investigation, declined to comment Wednesday, and neither Pol Sinuon nor Pol Saroeun could be reached.
Municipal Police Chief Lav Chan Chhay said he could not yet reveal investigators’ conclusions.
“I cannot tell you the results of the investigation yet,” he said. When asked if soldiers had barred investigators from entering the plantation, he hung up the phone.
Municipal military police chief Prak Sakhorn said investigators believed plantation guards had killed Im Bunny.
“We couldn’t find the body because they killed him secretly,” he said, adding that he was unaware of whether guards had barred investigators from entering the plantation.