In the face of apparent police inaction, local human rights group Licadho has taken it upon itself to file a complaint with the Svay Rieng Provincial Court against a commune police officer who shot dead a 28-year-old mother of two last month, a court official said Wednesday.
Hoping to avoid a murder case, district police brokered a compensation deal between relatives of the alleged perpetrator and the victim’s family, who eventually agreed to accept $2,800 in exchange for not filing a complaint in court against the officer who is accused of shooting to death Roth Samak.
Nuch Pheaktra, a police officer in Chantrea district’s Mesa Thngak commune, allegedly shot Roth Samak in the chest with an AK-47 assault rifle on the night of April 2 after an altercation between two groups of local people at a wedding party.
The police officer managed to escape after the shooting, but turned up in a local hospital—having sustained a mystery head injury—some time after he went on the run, and where he was questioned by police but not arrested.
While a criminal act such as killing someone with a rifle must be investigated and prosecuted regardless of whether a complaint is filed by the victim or not, police and court officials often do not conduct investigations without such a complaint, and particularly not after cash has been paid as “compensation,” allowing the perpetrators to go unpunished.
Hing Bunchea, provincial court prosecutor, said Licadho had filed its own complaint against the police officer, Mr. Pheaktra, on Tuesday.
Mr. Bunchea said he was now waiting for the police to conduct an investigation of the month-old killing.
“They promised that they will finish their investigation next week and then they will send the case to me,” Mr. Bunchea said.
“I think that the police did not arrest the suspect because he was seriously injured [in the hospital],” Mr. Bunchea added.
“We do not know if the suspect had intent to shoot dead the victim or not, so we must investigate this case in more detail.”
Mr. Bunchea said he did not know if the police officer is still in the hospital.
Koeng Khorn, provincial police chief, said only that his officers are investigating.
Nouth Bopinnaroath, provincial coordinator for Licadho, confirmed that his organization had submitted the complaint against the police officer for killing the young mother.
But, Keut Saman, the mother of the slain woman, was hesitant to speak Wednesday, saying she had already taken the money from police to not file a complaint against the police officer who killed her daughter.
“I think I don’t want to know anything about this because we promised not to file a complaint,” Ms. Saman said.