A soldier who had been hired to guard a parcel of land belonging to the Defense Ministry in Pursat province was arrested on Saturday after he confronted a group of loggers with an assault rifle because they refused to pay him hush money, local police said.
The man, Min Khan, 50, was identified by deputy provincial police chief Keo Sokunthea as a soldier working for the Defense Ministry.
Although he was supposed to be guarding the ministry’s land in Phnom Kravanh district’s Santre commune, he was also earning extra money on the side by extorting money from illegal loggers who passed through the area, according to Em Run, the police chief in neighboring Krakor district.
On Saturday, however, his sideline operation backfired when Mr. Khan stopped four makeshift trucks transporting hardwood logs and attempted to charge each vehicle’s driver 3,000 riel (about $.75) to pass through, Mr. Run said.
When the drivers refused to pay, Mr. Khan allegedly brandished his AK-47 assault rifle and discharged one shot in the air and another one at the ground, hitting 38-year-old logger Nhan Vuth in the foot.
“He was guarding the land with a gun—it seemed like he was guarding a jewelry shop,” the police chief said.
After the shooting, he said, the other loggers called commune police, who arrested the suspect—hiding out in a nearby patch of forest—about two hours later. However, by the time police caught up with Mr. Khan, the gun used in the shooting had already been turned over to the military commander in charge of the land, Mr. Run said.
Mr. Run, along with other officials, declined to name the commander. He also said it was unclear what the land was being used for, but that the provincial police would investigate the case and try to determine who had issued Mr. Khan’s gun.
Keo Sokunthea, the deputy provincial police chief, said he believed the gun had already been sent on from the local commander to the Defense Ministry but said local police would ask the ministry to send them a report on the firearm and how Mr. Khan came to be using it while off duty.
“I will request to have them investigate who owns it or who gave it to the suspect to use,” he said.
Defense Ministry officials could not be reached.