PM’s Bodyguard Shot Dead in Fight
Police are preparing to arraign the 21-year-old son of Kandal province’s police chief on charges he shot and killed a bodyguard of Prime Minister Hun Sen on a crowded Phnom Penh street, Municipal Police said Sunday.
Police said the incident took place Thursday night after a drunken dispute.
Ek Sovannara, of Phnom Penh, faces homicide charges in the shooting death of the bodyguard, Ly Sokleang, 33, also a Phnom Penh resident, Phnom Penh Deputy Police Chief Heng Pov said. Authorities arrested Ek Sovannara Saturday and are bringing him to Municipal Court today to be arraigned, he said.
Ek Sovannara is the son of Kandal Police Chief Ek Kret.
Witnesses told police that Ek Sovannara and Ly Sokleang were eating in the same Sihanouk Boulevard restaurant around 9 pm on Thursday when a fight broke out among them and their friends, Heng Pov said.
Ek Sovannara and another man chased Ly Sokleang down the street, firing at least four shots as Ly Sokleang ran through the crowds lining the street.
Ly Sokleang was hit, collapsed and died in front of the Jin Fu restaurant near Lucky Market on Sihanouk Boulevard, witnesses and police said.
Police will also seek a warrant today for the arrest of the other man involved in the shooting, whom Heng Pov refused to identify.
Ek Kret claimed his son surrendered to police and did not wait to be arrested, but said the families of the victim and the suspect have already settled the matter, which therefore does not require prosecution.
“I have already settled with the victim’s family. It is finished,” Ek Kret said.
Ly Sokleang’s family took $3,000 in compensation for his death, Ek Kret said. Nonetheless, he will not interfere if officials decide to follow through and prosecute, Ek Kret said.
“The police can enforce the law. I will not stop them,” Ek Kret said.
If police are somehow coerced into dropping the arraignment, prosecutors will still follow it, Prosecutor Ouk Savouth said Sunday.
“We will file the complaints by ourselves. This is a criminal case,” Ouk Savouth said.
Heng Pov, however, vowed to file the charges and see the case through the courts. “The offender killed a human being. So, under the law, the civil code cannot end this,” he said.
Cambodia is often criticized for a “culture of impunity,” in which the wealthy and powerful are above the law. The case against Ek Sovannara will be a test of Cambodia’s commitment to reform, Heng Pov said. However, he said the fact that the victim himself was well-connected was not a factor.
“If senior officials try to protect someone like this, our laws are worthless. I do not want to have the sons of common people in jail, while the sons of senior officials or the royal family are at large,” Heng Pov said. The arrest of Ek Sovannara is a first step, one human rights observer said, but won’t mean anything unless he is brought to trial.
“It’s very weird that a senior official has allowed his son to stay in jail. In Cambodian society, the law is not enforced properly for the powerful families, only for the poor,” the observer said. “If he’s arrested, it is just for show. Let’s see if they release the suspect from the back door.”