Police in Kompong Speu province on Monday began patrolling the base of Thmar Poun mountain while a small military detachment started searching its densely forested slopes for an armed soldier who allegedly shot dead the sister and mother of one of his six wives on Saturday.
Sam Van, 40, a warrant officer in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ Division 31, shot his sister-in-law and mother-in-law in the chest with an AK-47 assault rifle after showing up at their home in Phnom Sruoch district’s Dambouk Roung commune to speak to his wife and then flying into a rage upon learning that she was not there, according to police.
Both women died instantly, and Mr. Van—a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla with a reputation for drinking heavily and beating his six wives—fled into the forest covering Thmar Poun.
Commune police chief Kong Kin said that more than 20 commune and district police officers were deployed Monday morning to patrol the base of the mountain. He said the police had neither the necessary skills nor numbers to pursue Mr. Van into the forest.
“It would take at least 2,000 people to [completely] surround Thmar Poun mountain, and because the suspect is a former Khmer Rouge soldier, there might be an incident if we go into the forest,” he said.
Mr. Kin said officers were also standing sentry in the villages at the foot of the mountain.
“The villagers are scared. None of them are leaving their homes because they think the suspect will come back,” he said.
A military officer in Division 31, who gave his name only as Pheach because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said that about a dozen soldiers Monday began searching the mountain for Mr. Van, splitting into smaller groups in an attempt to sneak up on the trigger-happy fugitive.
The troops, he explained, must “keep quiet because we don’t want the suspect to hear them and fire on them,” he said, adding: “The forest is more than 100 hectares; it’s not a small area.”
On Sunday, Phnom Sruoch district police chief Say Bunthan said that the commander of Division 31 called Mr. Van’s mobile phone shortly after he fled to Thmar Poun on Saturday and attempted to persuade him to return and turn himself in.
“But he refused,” Mr. Bunthan said, “and told the commander that if he sent soldiers to find him, he would kill all of them and then kill himself.”