Slaying of Second Wealthy Police Officer Raises Questions of Incomes, Motives

Police officials investigating the Tuesday shooting death of a police captain in Kompong Cham province said yesterday that they suspect his former driver and an accomplice killed him.

The case marks the second targeted murder since November of a police captain driving a luxury vehicle and carrying thousands of dollars worth of cash or jewelry.

Yok Rathmany, 39, was shot six times in the back seat of his Lexus 470, then robbed of an estimated $27,000 worth of jewelry and an unknown sum of US dollars, deputy provincial police chief Chim Senghong said.

According to the victim’s wife, Mr Rathmany was on his way to what he believed to be a meeting over some land he wished to sell. Mr Senghong, however, said his driver and another man lured Mr Rathmany out.

“We hope to arrest them soon,” the deputy police chief said of the suspects.

Mr Senghong described the victim, a captain in the Interior Ministry’s economic crimes department, as having a second career as a well-known local merchant who spent most of his time importing fruit from Vietnam and pigs from Thailand with his wife while largely neglecting his law enforcement duties.

And though he described the slaying of the wealthy 39-year-old as a likely robbery, Kompong Cham provincial police chief Nuon Samin said he had not ruled out a business dispute or revenge either.

In a separate case from Nov 12, Kep provincial police captain Hor Kim Meng, 44, was seated at a street-side restaurant on Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard with his girlfriend when two men drove up on a motorbike and opened fire, killing Mr Kim Meng instantly. Police have arrested six men in connection with the shooting and described the motive as an unspecified grudge.

Mr Kim Meng, who also had a pregnant wife, was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser the day of the shooting and had $3,100 in cash in his pockets.

To explain how a police captain, a modest rank in the force, could have so much cash on hand and drive a car worth tens of thousands of dollars, Mr Kim Meng’s brother, Hor Kim Heng, said the money had come from a land sale.

The official salary of mid-ranking police officers such as captains is believed to be not more than $60 per month.

Pung Chhiv Kek, president of local rights group Licadho, said it was not uncommon for police officers to run side businesses that generate far more money than their official jobs, often through relatives.

“Sometimes they ask their wives or relatives to do it, and they get protected like that,” she said.

Ms Kek said it was not uncommon either for police to use their government jobs to move their businesses forward.

“They can use their power as a policeman to get some favor. There are lots of ways to do that,” she said.

“We have some cases of police using his power…to try to intimidate people,” she added. “This is illegal, but unfortunately there is impunity.”

Ms Kek was hopeful that an anti-corruption law-approved by the Council of Ministers in December and awaiting passage in the National Assembly-will help address such abuse.

The government has yet to release the latest draft of the law, however.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the draft law, which will require public servants to declare their assets, would only apply to those appointed by sub-decree, which police captains are not.

The country’s most famous police official to fall afoul of the law is that of disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, who is currently serving a 93-year prison sentence for various crimes including murder.

During a raid of Mr Pov’s home in August 2006, police confiscated two cars and $300,000 in cash. Several other police officers close to Mr Pov were also arrested in connection with is crime spree.


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