Takeo provincial police chief Ouk Samnang said Tuesday he has appealed for the National Police to pursue a murder case that the provincial court ordered him to cease investigating, allowing the primary suspect to walk free.
The suspect is Sin Pov, former police chief of Kiri Chung Koh commune in Kiri Vong district, who went on the run in March following the murder of San Yin, a 29-year-old karaoke parlor worker.
Mr. Pov had been seen arguing with San Yin at her home just before she was shot dead. The murder weapon was a police-issued K54 pistol.
But Mr. Pov appeared back in his village late last month to the surprise of his former friends and colleagues, who assumed he was guilty.
Asked to explain Mr. Pov’s reappearance, Mr. Samnang on Monday said he had been ordered by the court not to arrest the murder suspect, as he had paid $1,500 in compensation to the victim’s family.
“I was not taking sides with Mr. Pov. It was the decision of the provincial court; we are just police, we cannot interfere,” Mr. Samnang said Tuesday.
Mr. Samnang added that he had sent a report about the case to the national level with the hope that the murder would be properly investigated.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said he had spoken with Mr. Samnang on Tuesday and decided that the court was wrong to allow Mr. Pov to buy his way out of being the main suspect in a murder case.
“I don’t agree with that,” Lieutenant General Chantharith said. “Clearly, killing a person, a human being, can not be compensated with money.”
Lt. Gen. Chantharith said Mr. Samnang’s report was scheduled to arrive at the National Police headquarters “maybe tomorrow.”
“Police inspected the crime scene, presented evidence to the court, the court issued a warrant. But of course, the offender escaped,” he said.
“The court then ordered Mr. Samnang not to arrest [Mr. Pov], so he had no right to arrest him. The power is with the court. [Mr. Samnang] is also very angry.”
The practice of wealthy or well-connected individuals paying compensation to the family of those they have maimed, murdered or unintentionally killed is common.
In Mr. Pov’s case, the victim’s relatives—who live in southern Vietnam and are ethnically Khmer Krom—said they accepted the compensation only because they had no faith in Cambodia’s judicial system, not because they considered the money adequate redress for their loss.
“This is unjust for a poor family. Powerful people can kill people without being sentenced,” said the victim’s sister-in-law, Ny Norn, by telephone from Vietnam.
Ms. Norn said she has been raising San Yin’s 10-year-old son since the murder. The victim’s husband abandoned the family when the boy was only 3 months old, she explained.
“This money cannot heal our trauma. It cannot raise her son better than she could have.”