Police in Ratanakkiri province stormed a house in Banlung City on Sunday and arrested three people—including the wife of a local police officer—on allegations of water buffalo-rustling, according to local officials.
The raid followed a complaint from a 32-year-old farmer in neighboring O’Chum district alleging that four of his water buffalo had been stolen on Saturday, a city police report says.
Morm Vanda, a provincial deputy prosecutor, said a search party including the farmer, Krotuk Preng, had tracked the buffalo for a day into Boeng Kanseng commune.
“Villagers and police…had been looking for [the buffalo] by following their footprints,” Mr. Vanda said on Monday. “When they arrived at a house, they looked through the fence—which had been covered with tin—and they saw the water buffalo secured there.”
The discovery prompted the police to raid the house at about 10 a.m., he said, adding that officers recovered one live buffalo and an assortment of raw meat, horns and other buffalo parts.
The police report says the three in the house—Him Sas, 51, Ly Sokkry, 24, and Phat David, 23—were being questioned at the provincial police headquarters’ minor crimes bureau.
Mr. Vanda said the two younger men were Ms. Sas’ son and son-in-law and explained that they were the only suspects because no one else was in the house.
Huot Borey, the city’s police chief, said Ms. Sas’ husband was a city police officer, but declined to comment further. Local news outlets reported the husband’s name as Ek Sophat.
Mr. Borey said none of the suspects had confessed and questioning would continue. “Thieves don’t say that they are thieves,” he said.
The three were to be detained overnight at the police headquarters and sent to the provincial court this morning, Mr. Borey said.