Preah Vihear provincial forestry officials closed their office Sept 1, more than a week after a shooting at the forestry office reportedly involving staff of the provincial governor, officials said Thursday.
Foresters closed the office out of fear for their safety while authorities investigate the shooting, which occurred at midnight on Aug 23, said Chea San, provincial police chief.
Police are investigating allegations by foresters that the gunmen were Governor Preap Tann’s bodyguards, he said.
“Police are trying to find more witnesses and collect more evidence,” Chea San said, adding that the governor was definitely not involved.
The shooting occurred as a car belonging to the governor and a motorbike passed by the provincial forestry office in Tbeng Meanchey district’s Pal Hal commune, where a few forestry officials slept, he said.
Foresters said the shots were fired by those riding in the car, but Chea San said it is too soon to say for sure whether the reports are true.
Provincial prosecutor Meas Nob said authorities were investigating whether a bodyguard and a driver for Preap Tann were behind the shooting. He declined to elaborate, saying he received a report on the investigation Thursday, but had not read it over.
Repeated calls to Preap Tann were unsuccessful. Deputy Governor Long Sovann denied knowledge of the case.
Forestry Administration press officer Than Sarath said he had received reports of the closure and the shooting. He had also received reports that the governor’s bodyguards were involved, but had no evidence pinpointing the identity of the shooters, he said.
A high-ranking Preah Vihear forestry official said foresters were too scared to go to work because the assailants remain at large.
“We are afraid for our security, that is why we temporarily closed down the office,” said the official, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution.
(Additional reporting by Solana Pyne)