The families of three police officers who allegedly beat two men in Kandal province—one of whom died of his injuries—“finished the case” by paying the victims’ family $20,000 last week, a lawyer for the officers said on Tuesday.
Khuon Sreymom, the widow of Chamroeun Seyha, who died the day after the beating in late October, said her family negotiated with the families of three Sa’ang district police officers at their lawyer’s office in Phnom Penh and agreed to a financial payout last Wednesday.
“The families of the three police officers offered me and my brother $20,000 in civil compensation,” in exchange for dropping a court complaint, Ms. Sreymom said on Tuesday. Last month, Ms. Sreymom said that her family was demanding $65,000 to drop their complaint.
“I decided to accept that compensation because I was concerned that it would be difficult to receive [compensation through the courts], and especially because I do not have enough money to support my family after my husband died,” she said.
Ms. Sreymom said she and her brother, Tith Leap, who survived the beating, put their thumbprints “on the document agreeing to withdraw the complaint from the court.”
The Sa’ang district police officers—Chhay Sina, Pheakdey Vitou and Kheang Song Theng—were named as official suspects in the beating case, but have been at large since the incident, according to police.
Chamroeun Seyha and Mr. Leap were allegedly assaulted by the officers on the street and more severely while in custody after the pair were arrested following a traffic dispute with Mr. Sina on October 21. Chamroeun Seyha died in a Takhmao City hospital the day after, having been beaten so badly that he could not stand on his own, according to witnesses who saw him and Mr. Leap after they were released from the Sa’ang district police station.
Mak Bunna, an attorney for the officers, said on Tuesday that his clients’ families “paid $20,000 in compensation to the family of the two victims to finish the case.”
“They agreed to withdraw the complaint against my clients through me already,” Mr. Bunna said. “We facilitated with them because we want to give some money for the funeral and treatment [of Mr. Leap], and to support their family.”
Sa’ang district police chief Seng Socheat said the three police officers have not showed up to work since October 22. He said he did not know where they were and was unaware of the deal made between the families of the officers and victims.
“I don’t know about negotiations between the victims’ family and the families of the three police officers,” Mr. Socheat said. “If we meet [the officers], we will arrest them and send them to the court for questioning.”
Sam Rithyveasna, deputy Kandal provincial prosecutor, said he was also unaware of the deal struck between the families, but that the criminal investigation would proceed regardless of any financial settlement that occurred outside of court.
“The criminal case is still processing, so I still issued the summons for them” to appear for questioning in court last week, Mr. Rithyveasna said of the officers, adding that “withdrawing the complaint could not invalidate the criminal case.”
Court officials regularly say that criminal cases will continue even after victims have accepted an out-of-court settlement; however, such cases—particularly those involving government officials—routinely stall and suspects are rarely prosecuted.