Phnom Penh authorities have charged a 33-year-old soldier with murder in the shooting death of a Sam Rainsy Party supporter—a shooting the soldier reportedly claimed was an accident, officials said Wednesday.
Officials brought Ministry of Defense soldier Som Sophy of Prampi Makara district before Municipal Court to charge him with murder in the Feb 11 shooting of Ti Van, 32, at a Chinese New Year party, Phnom Penh Judicial Police Deputy Chief Heng Pov said.
But the killing was not politically motivated, as the Sam Rainsy Party claimed at the time of the slaying, Heng Pov said. At the time of the slaying, the opposition party claimed Ti Van was an activist in the party who was shot after saying, “Congratulations to the Sam Rainsy Party” while ringing in the Chinese Lunar New Year at his mother’s home.
But witnesses told police Som Sophy’s K-54 handgun slipped out of his hand and fell to the ground, discharging the bullet that killed Ti Van, Heng Pov said.
In his confession, Som Sophy admitted to firing his gun in the air to scare Ti Van, Heng Pov said. He was putting the weapon back in its holster when it slipped and fell to the ground.
After the shooting, Som Sophy fled to Kratie province and later moved on to Kompong Speu, where he stayed until Monday, Heng Pov said. Police arrested him Monday as he was on his way back into the capital to visit his wife, the chief said.