Police officials in Siem Reap province yesterday said they were searching for suspects, and a motive, in the ax murder of a local forestry official killed last Wednesday.
Doung Sokha, deputy chief of the province’s penal police office, said the Forestry Administration’s deputy chief in Angkor Thom district, Sim An, 50, was killed Wednesday morning.
He said Mr An’s assailants likely lured the deputy chief away from home with a phone call at approximately 8 am to a forested area near Bampenh Reach village, in Leang Dai commune, where they attacked him.
A group of farmers found Mr An’s body lying by a trail running through the commune with four axe wounds to the head around 9:30 am.
Mr Sokha said he suspected at least two people were involved in the attack but had no details about their identities, and little in the way of a potential motive.
“We are investigating the case to see if his death involved his crackdown on illegal logging,” he said.
Siem Reap was among a handful of provinces across the country where authorities made a number of large timber seizures earlier this year, following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s public call on officials to crack down on illegal loggers.
Despite a missing wallet and phones, Mr Sokha and district police chief Tith Narong both ruled out robbery in Mr An’s death, because the motor bike he used to drive himself to the scene was not stolen.
“We can say that it is a personal dispute,” Mr Narong said, declining to offer an explanation for his assessment.
Forestry Administration Director General Chheng Kim Sun, however, said it was “90 percent” likely that Mr An’s death was related to his work.
“It may be [related] with their daily job, because they are always dealing with anarchic people,” he said. “It is very dangerous for them.”
Mr Kim Sun said he knew of no specific work-related dispute Mr An may have been involved in and that his staff were still preparing a report for the police.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)