Policeman Beaten in Melee With Boat Racers

A military policeman was beaten unconscious with an oar on Thursday night when a riot broke out at the Water Festival between festivalgoers and a group of boatmen from Pea Reang district, Prey Veng province, police said.

The policeman, 27-year-old Sok Sar, was treated at Calmette Hos­pital. His injuries could have been much worse if the fight had not  been not stopped in time, said Ly Lay, district police chief of Russei Keo district.

“If they did not stop the fight, the military policeman might have been killed,” he said.

The melee began when a group of drunken boatmen started to make fun of actors putting on a performance on the east side of the Tonle Sap river, across from the Royal Palace. The performance was on a special stage set up for the Water Festival, one of the many attractions that were supposed to entertain festivalgoers during and after the boat races.

The boat races were over when the actors took to the stage, put­ting on a show for the boatmen, who, as the evening wore on were drinking more and more, police said.

Members of the audience yelled at the boatmen to stop talking, and when they didn’t, someone lunged forward with a knife to stab one of them, police said.

One of the boatmen reported a minor cut to his abdomen, but he did not require hospitalization, police said. His assailant was not found. The fight continued as audience members ran for help, getting the attention of 20 military policemen. Officers responded, but instead of stopping the fight, they fought the boatmen, district police said. The boatmen then called for their friends and soon a crowd of more than 100 was involved in the confrontation, either watching or fighting.

The fight was stopped only when a district policeman fired his handgun into the air seven times, police said. After a brief investigation, police dismissed everyone and no arrests were made.





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