Banteay Meanchey provincial police and military police are searching for an RCAF soldier for his suspected involvement in the shooting of two Malai district villagers during a standoff Saturday, officials said Tuesday.
Two villagers were injured in Takong commune’s Bos Thom Thmei village when RCAF soldiers fired into a crowd protesting the bulldozing of their land. Rights groups claim that the protest was peaceful and that Chea Sam Ath, the Bos Thom Thmei resident who allegedly cleared the disputed land, and his wife ordered the soldiers to open fire.
Malai district soldier Chham Chitra is suspected of shooting the two villagers, said Banteay Meanchey Governor On Sum, who ordered the manhunt for the soldier.
“The suspect must be punished because he shot people,” he said Tuesday, adding that even though he believed Chham Chitra was acting in self-defense, the soldier must be arrested.
Sao Bun, deputy police chief for Malai district, confirmed that police and military police were looking for Chham Chitra, who he said is on the run.
“We got an order to find the suspect and arrest him,” he said.
Chea Sam Ath denied by telephone Monday that he had confiscated anybody’s land, saying that he received the property from district police.
He also denied that he and his wife ordered the soldiers to fire upon the protesters.
“I just asked armed forces to help protect people’s security because they were walking straight at us with knives, axes and sticks,” he said.
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