Police Cagey on Officer Who Shot Young Man

Authorities in Takeo province claimed yesterday that they did not know or could not remember the name of a police officer who allegedly shot dead a suspected drug dealer earlier this month, even as they confirmed a compensation offer put forth by the unidentified officer’s family.

“I want justice for my son. I don’t want money,” said Horm Sary, father of Hoeun Soytry, who was killed earlier this month when officers stormed his house in Samraong district’s Boeng Tranh Khang Tbong commune and shot him in the head.

Police claimed Mr. Soytry, 21, was a known drug dealer resisting arrest, while family members said the young man was assaulted and shot by a group of officers in an attempt to extract a confession for a crime they say he never committed.

Reached yesterday, provincial police chief Ouk Samnang claimed he could not remember the name of the provincial police officer who authorities believe pulled the trigger, saying that the name was on a document he could not access.

But Mr. Samnang did recall a meeting yesterday between the families of the officer and the victim at his headquarters.

“The family of the victim and the offender’s family met each other, but it does not mean the case is finished,” he said. “It was a meeting to discuss civil compensation or to help in the name of charity.”

Mr. Samnang said he would forward the complaint to the provincial court for investigation, but did not know when that investigation would begin.

“Whether or not an agreement is reached, we still process the criminal complaint,” he added.

Both deputy provincial police chief Suon Phon and Sem Socheat, chief of the province’s serious crime bureau, also claimed not to know the name of the officer in question.

District police chief Moeung Sarum, meanwhile, said he, too, was in the dark about the officer’s identity, saying that he was not warned by provincial police when they conducted the raids as part of a nationwide drugs crackdown. He confirmed receiving the complaint from Mr. Sary about his son’s death in the days after the shooting.

Mr. Sary said that the officer’s family had approached him at provincial police headquarters yesterday after district authorities passed the case to higher -ups. The parents, whose names he could not recall, offered him 6 million riel, or about $1,500, to keep the case out of courts, he said.

“The offender’s parents want to settle the problem outside the court system, but I could not accept that,” he said. “They shot my son to death like an animal.”

Extrajudicial settlements of court cases are widespread in Cambodia, especially in cases involving authorities or wealthy suspects. Victims often say they have little choice but to accept compensation offered rather than pursue what is likely to be a losing battle in the country’s notoriously corrupt judicial system.

Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager for local rights group Licadho, said it was illegal for out-of-court settlements to replace criminal prosecutions, adding that the process encouraged impunity.

“The victim or family of the victims are able to receive civil compensation according to any agreement,” he said. “But criminal action can’t be stopped by the victim or the victim’s family.”

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