Six military police were placed in pretrial detention Friday, charged by the Prey Veng Provincial Court over a police pursuit in March in which a truck driver and his assistant were allegedly shot at, beaten and hog-tied after blowing through a pair of military police checkpoints, a court official said.
After graphic images of the bloodied driver and his assistant were circulated on social media, National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha set up a special task force to investigate the incident. That task force held a press conference in Phnom Penh on Friday morning to announce its findings and forward the case to court, where the suspects spent the day being interrogated.
“The court charged [the six] with intentional acts of violence with aggravating circumstances and intentionally causing damage,” said Meas Sopheak, chief prosecutor in Prey Veng.
“Investigating Judge [Heng Sokchea] has sent them to pretrial detention around 5 p.m.,” he added.
According to the Criminal Code, the six face between two and a half and seven years in prison if found guilty on both charges.
On the evening of March 19, truck driver Nen Sida and his assistant, Thoeun Noeub, were transporting a truckload of rice through Thbong Khmum province when they blew through two military police checkpoints, which Mr. Sida said he believed were illegal and set up by rogue officers attempting to extort money from commuters.
Military police gave chase, finally bringing the truck to a halt in Prey Veng’s Svay Antor district after allegedly firing shots from an AK-47 assault rifle through the windshield.
According to the victims—and photos circulated online—the two men were then beaten and hog-tied before being dumped at the district police office.
At Friday’s press conference, Lieutenant General Sin Sophany, the chief of the National Military Police’s justice commissariat who was appointed head of the task force, showed a number of photos of the bloodied victims at the scene, including one where an officer is standing on a victim’s head.
“We have found that they will admit to shooting, scuffling and arresting, but none agreed that they beat up and tied [the victims],” Lt. Gen. Sophany said.
Lt. Gen. Sophany said that the detained officers—three from Prey Veng and three from Tbong Khmum—had violated the moral standards of the military police and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, as well as the law.
“The fact is that these are brutal actions that can’t be accepted,” he said.
The charged officers have been identified as O’Reang-ou district military police commander Vorn Poeun, second lieutenant Srun Bora and technical sergeant Kang Chetra, all from Tbong Khmum province. The officers from Prey Veng are captain Yin Long, chief of military police security center 808, technical sergeant Von Sophy and technical sergeant Pho Vira.
All six have been temporarily suspended from their positions.
Brigadier General Sok Krin and Brigadier General Var Sarith, the military police commanders in Prey Veng and Tbong Khmum provinces, respectively, were also handed formal warnings from the task force, according to Mr. Sophany.
Lieutenant Colonel Ieng Phearek and Major Yem Sam On, both from Tbong Khmum, were also reprimanded for their roles in the incident, but were not charged.
The military police investigation also found that Mr. Sida, the truck driver, had made three “mistakes”: failing to stop for military police, causing a road accident during the pursuit, and carrying a load beyond the legal limit.