Police on Tuesday identified a Cambodian-American man as the individual they apprehended in Phnom Penh on Monday after reporters covering a car crash were assaulted and shot at by those involved in the accident, which involved a car with police license plates.
Srah Chak commune deputy police chief Srieng Bunnara, who led the police deployed to the scene of the multi-car accident near Wat Phnom in Daun Penh district at about 1 a.m., named the apprehended suspect as Moeun Saramith, 32, who resides in the U.S.
Mr. Bunnara said Mr. Saramith was not suspected of firing upon the journalists but was one of several people who attempted to force them to erase their photos and videos.
“One among the other suspects shot three times, and we arrested one man [Mr. Saramith] who was a suspect involved with them and sent him to the court this morning,” Mr. Bunnara said.
“He is a suspect because he went to prevent the journalists taking photos,” he said. “We arrested him for questioning over accusations of intentional violence against the journalists in order to damage their property, including cameras and smartphones.”
“We do not know anything more. This is the accusation made by the journalists,” Mr. Bunnara added. “If he is not in the wrong, we will release him and give the cars back.”
Daun Penh district penal police officer Van Saveth said Tuesday that police had impounded a red Honda SUV with police license plates, a minibus and a Daewoo Tico.
“Two vehicles are being kept at the Srah Chak commune police station and one is being kept at the district police station,” he said. “The suspect is being detained at the district police station today after court questioning in the morning.”
Outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday, while being transferred back to the district police station after being questioned inside the courthouse, Mr. Saramith said he had merely stopped at the scene of the accident to act as a peacemaker.
“They are wrong to accuse me because I do not know anything,” he said. “I was just driving around [Phnom Penh] because I just came from overseas. I just came to visit, and I saw Khmer people having an argument with each other.”
“I love Khmer people. So I tried to stop them,” he added before being escorted into a police vehicle.
Deputy municipal court prosecutor Keo Socheat said no charges were laid against Mr. Saramith and that he was being detained for further questioning.
“After questioning today, we have still not decided whether to charge the suspect yet,” he said, declining to comment further.
According to a police report, a complaint about Monday night’s incident was filed by seven journalists including three from the Cambodian News Channel, one from Hang Meas TV, one from TV3, and two from local online news websites.
Ngov Dina, a Hang Meas TV cameraman who was among those who filed the complaint, said he witnessed Mr. Saramith attack reporters and grab their cameras, and presumed he had been called to back up those involved in the crash.
“I saw him in the back of the car with two ladies including [pop singer] Ork Somavatey and then I saw he was the first to make trouble with reporters and try to grab our cameras,” Mr. Dina said. “We saw the man with the long hair attack reporters. I told him we were journalists but he did not listen.”
Mr. Dina said Mr. Saramith was not the shooter, but was actively involved in the scuffle.
“If he is not in the wrong, when he saw the accident, why did he come to help those men?” he added.
Mr. Bunnara, the deputy commune police chief, said 10 others in the case are still being sought for questioning.
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