A commune police chief in Takeo province who went on the run after being named the primary suspect in the murder of a karaoke-parlor worker in March has returned home and is no longer wanted by the court, having paid off the victim’s family, according to relatives and local authorities.
San Yin, 29, was fatally shot at her rented home in Kiri Vong district’s Kiri Chung Koh commune on the night of March 21. Police immediately suspected Sin Pov, then the commune police chief, who was seen arguing with the victim in her house just before a gunshot was heard at about 8:30 p.m.
The murder weapon was a police-issued K54 pistol.
On Monday, however, provincial police chief Ouk Samnang said the provincial court had sent him a letter ordering him to drop his search for Mr. Pov, as the former police chief and the victim’s family had reached an out-of-court settlement.
“There are two reasons why the provincial police did not arrest him,” Mr. Samnang said. “The first is because he provided the victim’s family with compensation. The second is because he was being monitored by the court.”
Mr. Samnang declined to say how much Mr. Pov had paid the family. He also denied reports that Mr. Pov would be resuming his former position, as he was assumed to be guilty.
“There is no way that we would accept him back, because he committed a crime,” he said.
The commune’s new police chief, Khun Vuthy, said Mr. Pov was enjoying himself back at home late last month, and even dropped by his old office for a chat.
“When he arrived back at home, he came to the commune police office to visit us. We did not arrest him because the case was over,” Mr. Vuthy said.
“He went around the commune drinking beer, eating and enjoying himself without fear,” he said.
“He told me that he had already paid enough compensation to the victim’s family before being caught,” he added. “But I don’t know how much he paid the victim’s family because he kept it a secret.”
Uk Sam Oeun, police chief in neighboring Kok Prech commune and a former friend of Mr. Pov, said the ex-police chief also recently visited the district police office.
“Last week, I met him at the district police office…. But I don’t know why he was there,” he said. “After the murder, I ended our friendship and we never met each other again.”
Mr. Pov could not be reached Monday.
His son, Sin Soeun, confirmed that his father had returned home last week but said he had since gone to Pursat province.
“There were negotiations,” Mr. Soeun said of the murder case before hanging up.
Members of San Yin’s family said they accepted the compensation from Mr. Pov out of fear and a lack of funds to fight a legal case from Vietnam, where they live.
“The family of the policeman [Mr. Pov] gave us 6 million riel [about $1,500] in compensation to end the case,” said Ny Norn, San Yin’s sister-in-law.
“We accepted it because we don’t have enough money to go back and forth between Vietnam and Cambodia, and we were afraid he would attack Tola,” she said by telephone from Vietnam, referring to the victim’s 10-year-old son.
“I am angry. I hate them,” she said of Mr. Pov and his family. “But I will not file a complaint. We cannot confront them.”
Takeo Provincial Court director Plang Chhlam declined to comment on the case.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said the severity of the crime ought to compel the court to pursue the case regardless of the payout.
“This is impunity, because the perpetrator is a police officer,” Mr. Sam Ath said.
“It is such a serious crime that the prosecutor should charge him according to the law instead of letting him go free.”