Prey Veng Teen Shot Dead by Security Officials

Armed men accompanying a Prey Veng province deputy district governor opened fire on unarmed villagers Thursday killing a teen­age boy—the latest casualty in a bloody land dispute which saw two fellow villagers shot and injured by police Dec 5, witnesses and rights workers said.

Yeng Socheat, 17, was shot in the left eye when some 20 armed men, wearing plain clothes but believed to be Cambodian security forces, opened fire on villagers as they approached the district’s CPP deputy governor Y Sam Ol at the disputed land in Koh Sampov commune, rights workers said.

The killing marks the fifth shooting of villagers in the district in less than a month by government authorities involved in two land disputes with villagers, local advocates said.

Men Makara, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said the armed men who shot the 17-year-old were taking orders from Y Sam Ol.

The villagers were not armed and had not threatened the governor, Men Makara said.

“It was an intentional killing. The authorities must bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said.

“[The deceased] joined with the other villagers to ask Y Sam Ol why police had cleared their land and had sprayed chemicals to kill the villagers’ rice seedlings,” Men Makara said.

Y Sam Ol, Hen Yorn, CPP councilor for Koh Sampov commune, and Sing Sokhom, the commune’s police chief, all returned to work Monday after being cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting of two villagers Dec 5 over the same disputed land.

Be Sophal, 35, was shot in the arm and Neth Tran, 24, suffered a bullet graze to his left temple when police officers opened fired on some 100 villagers who confronted Hen Yorn over the construction of a hut on land they claim they have farmed for at least five years.

Without provocation or warning, the villagers alleged, Hen Yorn and several commune-level police officers opened fire Dec 5, injuring the two men. Villagers who witnessed the shooting claimed that Y Sam Ol gave the orders to begin shooting and that both Hen Yorn and Sing Sokhom also opened fire.

Y Sam Ol could not be contacted regarding the latest shooting and the killing of the teenager.

Peam Chor’s CPP District Governor Aing Thoeung said he was unaware of the killing and declined further comment.

On Monday, Aing Thoeung said that Y Sam Ol had returned to work after writing him a report on the Dec 5 incident.

On Nov 26, two men were shot and seriously wounded in the same district by police officer Hun Savann when they confronted him over his claims to their land, local officials said. Chhou Sarann, 33, was shot in the abdomen and Nhem Thoe­urng, 42, was shot in the left hand. District police chief Soun Savath said at the time that the armed officer shot the unarmed villagers in self-defense.

Dul Den, a witnesses to Thursday’s shooting, said by telephone from Prey Veng that the dead teenager, Yeng Socheat, had followed the villagers to the disputed land out of curiosity.

“We didn’t even ask any questions. They just shot at the villagers,” Dul Den said.

Prey Veng provincial police chief Tim Phan said the armed men were not police officers but could possibly have been members of other government forces.

“The suspects were not police officers, they might be military police officers,” Tim Phan said, adding that police were investigating.

Cheam Yeap, CPP lawmaker for Prey Veng, said he would travel to the province over the weekend to encourage the authorities to investigate the killing.

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