No Day in Court for Drunk, Trigger-Happy Military Officer

Military police have decided not to press criminal charges against a fellow officer who shot his pistol into the air on Saturday night in Tbong Khmum province after leaving a wedding party intoxicated.

Norn Chhayret, a low-ranking military police officer in Kompong Cham province, was attending a friend’s wedding in Tbong Khmum province on Saturday, and on leaving the venue he fired three rounds from his K-59 handgun, Tbong Khmum deputy district police chief Long Sarin said Sunday.

“At about 9 p.m. we heard the sound of three shots and thought it might be a robbery. But a few minutes later, villagers called the police and reported that a military police officer did it,” he said. “We arrested him at 9:35…in Chup commune for shooting carelessly, which scared the local people.”

Mr. Sarin said no one was hurt, but added that the inebriated officer did not want to go quietly.

“That guy did not want us to arrest him. He shouted at the police that he was a military police officer and he has the right to shoot,” he said.

Mr. Sarin said the officer was taken to the district police office and that an 1 1/2 hours later, military police from Kompong Cham showed up to take him away.

Kompong Cham military police chief of staff Chem Pichet confirmed that Mr. Chhayret was brought back to provincial headquarters.

“I got information that police arrested him for shooting carelessly into the air. So we sent officials to take him back,” he said.

Illegal use of a weapon by an officer is a crime. But Mr. Bunrith said the officer would not be prosecuted because no one had been hurt in the shooting.

“We did not send him to the court because he did not shoot anyone; he just shot into the air while drunk,” he said.

Mr. Bunrith said the officer had been suspended, although his superiors had not yet decided for how long, and would be made to sign a pledge not to shoot in the air while drunk again or else be fired.

Officers shooting into the air while angry or drunk, or both, is a common occurrence across the country, though prosecutions are rare. Last month, a police officer fired his handgun into the air during an argument in Phnom Penh and was arrested, only to be released without charges the same night.

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