Phnom Penh police chief Chuon Sovann struck two military police officers guarding the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s cremation site on Sunday after they allowed a group of elderly mourners to enter a restricted area within the complex, according to a military police spokesman.
“The reason the military policemen were hit and punched was because of a misunderstanding while they were on duty. And Lieutenant General Chuon Sovann was grumpy,” said national military police spokesman Colonel Kheng Tito. “[The two military police officers] were hit with an Icom [2-way radio] after three of our officers couldn’t stop villagers from entering the site to pay their respects at the late King Father’s cremation site,” he added.
According to a military police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, Lt. Gen. Sovann first struck one of the military police officers on the neck before ordering municipal police officers to handcuff a second officer.
Noticing the fracas, Vong Bunna, the military police captain on duty, then confronted Mr. Sovann and told him that the military police had their own commander to take orders from.
In response, Lt. Gen. Sovann turned and hit Mr. Bunna in the ribs three times before a group of nearby military police officers intervened.
“Chuon Sovann used his power to enact violence against our military forces who were on duty,” the military police officer said.
According to another military police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the two military police officers saw that about 10 elderly people in the crowd around Veal Mean—the park in front of the National Museum—were visibly short of breath, so allowed them behind the barricades to relax in order to catch their breath.
Mr. Bunna and the military police officer who was struck by Mr. Sovan will wait until the late King Father’s cremation is over to decide whether or not to file an official complaint against Lt. Gen. Sovann, Col. Tito said.
Lt. Gen. Sovann could not be reached for comment, and his deputy, Brigadier General Chuon Narin, declined to comment.