Police in Mondolkiri province are refusing to search for a fugitive former military police officer—wanted for shooting at authorities who came to inspect a suspicious haul of luxury wood in his car—because they do not have enough money to conduct a thorough manhunt, an official said on Wednesday.
Sou Marith, 37, who made headlines in 2014 when he put a gun to the head of a district governor, fled his house after the shooting on Wednesday and was charged in absentia with using an illegal weapon by the Mondolkiri Provincial Court on Friday, according to deputy prosecutor Chea Sovantheth.
Sak Sarun, commander of the military police in Keo Seima district, a hotbed of illegal logging, said a team of Forestry Administration and military police officers who were fired on when they attempted to inspect two pieces of what appeared to be illegally logged Thnong wood inside a Toyota SUV parked outside the disgraced ex-official’s house.
“Our authorities followed his Land Cruiser—which was transporting wood and driven by his accomplice—to the gate of his house,” Mr. Sarun said, adding that when his men attempted to approach the vehicle, Mr. Marith opened fire.
“Sou Marith shot twice from the [second] floor of his house at our military police while they were trying to walk inside his gate to inspect the car,” he said.
“We withdrew, then we sent a force to surround his house, but he had escaped.”
While the Mondolkiri court has issued another warrant for his arrest—a warrant for the 2014 incident was apparently ignored by authorities—district police chief Sun Bunthoeun, who has been tasked with finding Mr. Marith, said he does not have the necessary funds to initiate a manhunt.
“We need money,” he said, explaining that a thorough search for Mr. Marith would require funds for travel, food and accommodation that his officers do not currently have access to.
Mr. Bunthoeun refused to say how much money was needed but said he had requested the necessary amount from his provincial police superiors.
Mondolkiri provincial police chief Toch Yon said he would not be providing additional funds to the Keo Seima force.
“We will not offer any money because it is the duty and the job of the district police to find the offender,” he said.
The shooting on Wednesday was the second time Mr. Marith has demonstrated a cavalier disregard for authority and fondness for firearms.
In May 2014, when Mr. Marith was employed as a local military police officer, he put a pistol to the head of district governor Sin Vanvuth in an attempt to free the drivers of a Lexus SUV that the governor and other officials had pulled over for transporting 16 pieces of illegally logged Neang Nuon wood. “It was a serious threat,” Mr. Vanvuth said at the time.
Mr. Marith eventually stood down and fled the scene. He was stripped of his position but never arrested.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sak Sarun was part of the team of officers that was shot at by fugitive former military police official Sou Marith. He was not present at the time.