Sar Kheng Fires 3 Police Officers Implicated in Beating Death

Three police officers in Kandal province were fired last month, according to a declaration signed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, following an out-of-court settlement related to their alleged involvement in the beating of two men in October, one of whom died after he was released from police custody.

The three Sa’ang district police officers—Chhay Sina, Pheakdey Vitou and Kheang Song Theng—were fired for failing to show up to work and will have their wages and other benefits cut off beginning next month, the January 18 document says.

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Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at the Sofitel hotel in Phnom Penh during a meeting on the implementation of the traffic law. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Saran Komsath, a National Police spokesman, confirmed the firings and said it was standard disciplinary procedure to dismiss officers who abandoned their work.

“They did not come to work for many months and the firing was made due to a request from the provincial police chief,” Mr. Komsath said on Sunday.

In October, Chamroeun Seyha, 26, died in a Takhmao City hospital the day after he and his brother-in-law, Tith Leap, 22, were released from the Sa’ang district police station. Mr. Leap said they were severely beaten by police officers while they were detained, as well as on the street after a traffic dispute with a district officer wearing plain clothes—later identified as Mr. Sina, the district immigration police chief—turned violent.

Police initially claimed that a mob on the street had beaten the men, believing they were thieves, but local witnesses said they saw officers attack the pair.

In December, Chamroeun Seyha’s widow, Khuon Sreymom, and her brother, Mr. Leap, accepted a payout of $20,000 from the families of the three officers in exchange for dropping a civil complaint.

Mr. Komsath said the firings were “partly linked” to the beating allegations. The sacked officers still face possible charges from an ongoing criminal investigation.

“If those people are involved with any court case, we will follow through on the court’s decision,” Mr. Komsath said. “We will follow whatever the court decides.”

Lim Sokuntha, Kandal provincial prosecutor, said the court had issued a summons for questioning for the three officers on January 11, but they had yet to show up to court.

“I will summon them next week. I will summon them again and if they do not show up according to this summons, we will place charges against them,” Mr. Sokuntha said.

In the months following the beating, court officials repeatedly said they would issue summonses if the officers did not appear for questioning.

Asked why the court had not issued summonses earlier, Mr. Sokuntha said time was needed to question the plaintiff, witnesses and then the suspects, inspect the evidence and work on other cases.

“I will speed up this case for the benefit of justice for both parties,” he said.

Seng Socheat, Sa’ang district’s police chief, said National Police commissioner Neth Savoeun and the provincial police chief had previously ordered district police to look for the three officers, but they had not received warrants for their arrest.

Mr. Socheat added that the officers had failed to show up to work since October 22, the day Chamroeun Seyha died.

“Regardless of whether they are police officers or ordinary people, whenever they commit offenses and criminal wrongdoings, we will punish them,” Mr. Socheat said.

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