Police Accused of Fatally Beating Female Detainee

Deputy National Police Com­mis­sioner Sok Phal said Tuesday that the six municipal police officers who were detained over the week­end have been accused of beat­ing a woman to death in police cus­­tody and destroying a Chinese cem­etery at the heart of a land dispute involving one of their sisters.

Sok Phal said that the victim, iden­tified as Duong Sopheap, died while under interrogation by officers at the Municipal Minor Crime Bureau in June 2005, following her arrest on accusations that she had stolen a gold bracelet.

Three police officers conducted the questioning, which at some point turned violent, leading to the 23-year-old woman receiving fatal blows, Sok Phal said.

“One of the officers smacked her head strongly against a wall and another kicked her in the stomach…. She may have died from a ruptured spleen. Then they hired a cyclo to transport her body to be dumped at a pagoda,” he said.

Sok Phal said that the accused officers claim the woman died while they were taking her to hospital. But three women, who initially accused the victim of stealing the bracelet, claim she died while in the police station, he said.

The husband of the dead wo­man also alleges that he was un­able to take his wife’s body to be cre­mated elsewhere, and was forced to thumbprint a statement prom­ising not to make a complaint about her death, Sok Phal said.

“They should at least have filed a report about her death. But they did not do anything. If they had done this, the punishment would be less. The stealing of gold was not a serious crime. But beating her to death is a serious one,” he added.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Saturday charged Municipal Minor Crime Police Chief Hong Setha, his deputy Ly Rasy, Minor Crime Criminal Section Chief Sim Sot­ha and his deputies Thon Cha­nary, Oung Samnang and Chan Van­ny with intentional killing and sent them to Prey Sar prison.

In the second case, 32 villagers lodged a complaint alleging that police officers had leveled the graves after intervening in a land dispute on behalf of a sister of Ly Ra­sy, Sok Phal said.

Yin Wengka, the lawyer representing Ly Rasy, said on Sunday that it was too early to comment on his client’s case as he had not yet received any court documents. Long Dara, the lawyer representing Oung Sam­nang, and Suong Sophal, Hong Setha’s lawyer, said that they, too, had yet to receive court documents.

The allegations of police abuse and the unprecedented arrests of senior and middle-ranking Phnom Penh police officials were not linked to the sudden removal of Mu­nicipal Police Commissioner Heng Pov on Jan 13, Sok Phal said.

However, as the city’s superior officer, Heng Pov did share some responsibility for the actions of his subordinates, Sok Phal said. “This case is not involved with anyone else, but [Heng Pov] was their chief. So within his position he has to have responsibility,” he said.

Heng Pov was replaced as Phnom Penh’s police commissioner in a ceremony at City Hall attended by Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema and Interior Min­istry Secretary of State Em Sam An

Officials said at the time that Heng Pov would be promoted to the position of undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry.

Heng Pov’s promotion, however, was described by some ob­ser­vers as a “golden prison,” in which officials who have fallen from favor are booted upstairs to a desk job in the ministry.

Telephone calls to Heng Pov on Mon­day and Tuesday were an­swered by a man who identified himself as an assistant of the former police chief, and who reported that he was busy in meetings.

Though Heng Pov was seen as a rising star inside the police force, Director General of National Police Hok Lundy said he was too busy to attend his removal ceremony.

Heng Pov had risen quickly through police ranks in recent years after successfully shaking off a highly public feud with fellow Interior Ministry strongman Mok Chito.

In 1998. both Heng Pov and Mok Chito publicly accused each other of ordering attacks on personal enemies in Phnom Penh. The feud finally ended with both men being suspended by the In­terior Ministry.

The two were later rehabilitated, with Heng Pov securing the position of deputy municipal police chief in 2003 and Mok Chito named deputy police chief of Pailin Municipality.

Heng Pov was promoted to brigadier general in 2003 and named an adviser to Prime Min­ister Hun Sen on security matters in 2005.

Some have speculated that Heng Pov’s growing stature and power in the police force had earned him the scorn of jealous colleagues and superiors.


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