Military Police: Soldier Shot Dead for Talking

pailin – Military Police and local villagers have implicated Pailin municipal police in the killing of an RCAF soldier who they allege was killed for providing military police with incriminating information against suspects with links to Pailin Governor Y Chhean.

Pailin Military Police Captain Nong Vanny said authorities suspect that a clothed skeleton still decomposing on the property of a Pailin police official is believed to be the deceased soldier Im Bunny, alias Pele, of the 53rd Brigade’s Border Battalion 504.

A villager living at the foot of Sala Krao district’s Phnom Srang, near the jungle’s edge, where the bones lay, said Sunday he saw men in police uniform pull up in a car early one day in April around the Khmer New Year.

They marched a man, gagged and handcuffed, up a trail to the forest at about 3 am. The villager said they heard two gunshots about an hour later and the officers returned, less one man.

“It’s lawless here,” said the villager, who requested anonymity.

“The people are dying like dogs,” a neighboring villager added.

Im Bunny disappeared on April 8. Military police arrested him on March 29. While he was being held, he was questioned about an attack on military police officers in Pailin town.

Five other suspects implicated in the attack were related to Y Chhean’s daughter-in-law and all were employed at her Ratanak (Gemstone) Tela gas station, Nong Vanny said.

After questioning Im Bunny, military police later arrested Vann Chan Thuon, 20, at the Ratanak Tela gas station.

Suspicious that other suspects were hiding inside the station, military police surrounded the building until the governor’s daughter-in-law, Kosal Panharoth, arrived to mediate, officers said.

Kosal Panharoth asked the military police to leave the station and promised to send them their suspects later. After one hour, she sent only one suspect, Ngin Dina, 23, according to a military police report.

On May 1, attack suspect Tes Rithy, 25, was also arrested on a warrant from the Battambang Provincial Court.

“We can conclude [Im Bunny was killed] for testifying against [suspects linked to] the governor’s family,” Pailin Military Police Com­mander Ith Sam Em said June 23.

“The killers were likely police officials who are loyal to Y Chhean, because they are his former privates” from his days as a Khmer Rouge military commander, Ith Sam Em said.

Y Chhean has forbidden his Cabinet from communicating with Pailin’s military police, Ith Sam Em said.

“I heard that he will try to have me removed by going to the top and saying that we do not protect his face, because we arrested suspects related to his daughter-in-law,” he said.

Y Chhean denied there was any rift between military police and the Municipality. “This is just some kind of instigation to fracture the solidarity,” he said Tuesday.

“There was no killing,” Y Chhean added in response to the accusations. “If there was, police would report to me.”

Y Chhean also denied that the suspects detained for the March 28 attack on two Military Police officials were relatives of his. He said they worked for his daughter-in-law.

Battambang Provincial Court Investigating Judge Pech Chhoeuth confirmed Tuesday that three attack suspects were in the Battambang prison, charged with intent to kill. He said a trial date has not been set.

According to Military Police and human rights workers, the incident stemmed from an altercation in the street, in which two uniformed Military Police officials accosted amphetamine-fueled suspects for driving their motorbikes recklessly.

After issuing a warning, military police officer Chhuon Sam Ath said he and fellow officer Horn Sokhom went to the Kandal Karaoke parlor, where their assailants followed them and viciously attacked them with an assortment of blades.

“They kicked open the door and attacked. They chopped us brutally,” he said June 23, rolling up his sleeves to show the laces of thick white scars on his palms and arms. He said he got the cuts while trying to fend off the knives, cleavers and machete.

He said some of the blows fractured his bones, leaving him unable to lift objects as heavy as his rifle.

Horn Sokhom fared worse. He lost three fingers and is now in Phnom Penh undergoing treatment for head injuries, Chhuon Sam Ath said.

Mok Chito, once known as the right hand of National Police Chief Hok Lundy, was sent to Pailin in April as the town’s new deputy police commissioner.

The appointment has been seen by some as an attempt by the government in Phnom Penh to tighten its control over Pailin.

Mok Chito said Tuesday that he arrived there after the attack on the Military Police and the disappearance of Im Bunny.

“I just heard about the body, but I don’t know anything about it,” he said. “There are no details. No serious investigation was made.”

He said that because the victim had been handcuffed, it appeared someone was attempting to frame law enforcement officers, but also confirmed the ongoing feud between Pailin’s two police departments.

Im Bunny’s mother, Nong Roeun, 63, said Sunday she did not know where her son was, but she did not believe the skeleton in the forest was his. She said she had been too busy farming to view it, but her other son had told her it was too small to be Im Bunny.

Im Bunny’s sometimes estranged wife, Han Chath, 26, was not so convinced.

She had seen the body, but bullets and decomposition had rendered it unrecognizable. She said Sunday that she could have identified Im Bunny by his chipped front teeth, but the corpse’s front teeth had been shot out.

“There is no reason to say it is not him,” she said.

Then her father, Pov Han, a 54-year-old Khmer Rouge veteran, arrived. At first he said he knew nothing about Im Bunny’s whereabouts. Then he broke down in loud sobs.

“I feel so pitiful,” he said. “I spent 25 years fighting. How can my son-in-law die like this?”

Looking at his daughter’s naked son, he said, “Maybe I want to give the baby away, because the father is gone.”

Even though he had not seen the corpse in the woods, Pov Han said it was definitely Im Bunny’s.

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