A human rights group is demanding justice from RCAF after soldiers allegedly shot dead four men in Kompong Speu province and stuffed their bodies into a charcoal kiln early last month.
A military police official confirmed Tuesday that the men had been killed by the military, but said their punishment was deserved because they had stolen cows, raped women and shot at authorities.
The four men were arrested in late October, then executed at midnight Nov 1 at a dam near the Baseth district military base, according to Adhoc, a human rights group whose representatives found the bodies last week.
In a letter sent Friday to RCAF Commander in Chief Ke Kim Yan, Adhoc called the executions “illegal killings” and asked him to bring the suspected killers to court.
“We are asking him to arrest the men who killed the suspected robbers,” Adhoc President Thun Saray said Tuesday. The letter charges the base commander as ultimately responsible, and the group’s report claims the military unit had a history of terrorizing local people and even eating livers of their victims.
Ke Kim Yan could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Neang Phat, director of the information department at the Defense Ministry, said he knew no details of the case.
Men Siborn, deputy commander of the military police in Kompong Speu, confirmed Tuesday that the men were arrested in late October and killed shortly after by military officials.
He said the four victims—Am Pheng, 27, Chum Thed, 23, “Chiek,” 30, and Kim Ly, 38—were accused by farmers of stealing cattle and property in Takeo and Kompong Speu provinces.
He also claimed the men used illegal weapons and sometimes raped farmers’ daughters. He defended the killings, saying the men had fired upon authorities in the province before.
Human rights officials say the men should not have been killed under any of these circumstances, but taken to court instead.
“I think according to the law they must send them to court,” said Chan Soveth, program manager for Adhoc. “Even if they had stolen people’s cows, the military still had no authorization to shoot them.”
After the men were executed, their bodies were stuffed in a charcoal kiln, according to witnesses and human rights observers. Families of the victims said the military would not allow them to remove the bodies, and threatened to harm them if they did, the letter reads, so the bodies remain in the kiln, rotting.
Military police are continuing to investigate, said Men Siborn. He said, though, that he had not yet received detailed information about the case. The provincial authorities are still investigating robberies in the area, though since the killings those crimes had decreased, he said.