Sports Defeat Blamed For School Attack

A game of basketball is being blamed for an attack at Wat Koh high school in Phnom Penh Tues­day morning in which a group of rival students armed with sticks, a baseball bat and handguns raided the school and beat a teacher.

Daun Penh district police were reluctant Wednesday to comment on the attack and downplayed the incident, which al­legedly involved the sons of government officials who were stopped leaving the scene of the attack but not arrested.

The incident has provoked anger from the Wat Koh school teacher who was beaten, narrowly escaping serious injury when a gun pointed at him by one of the students failed to fire.

Daun Penh district police chief Phan Phen said Wednesday that officers responded to news of the attack at Wat Koh school but were instructed only to dismiss the student raiding party, two of whom are related to senior members of government.

Phan Phen said about eight students from Sisowath high school entered Wat Koh school Tuesday to avenge the loss of a recent basketball tournament.

Tuesday’s attack was a minor incident and the second time the students have clashed since the loss of the basketball tournament, which was part of the annual municipal schools’ sports competition, Phan Phen said.

“The [Sisowath students] went there to solve a problem….They did not disturb classes,” Phan Phen said. “We went to the school on behalf of the authority to make them calm down.”

However, teachers and students interviewed Thursday at Wat Koh high school had a different version of the events that unfolded.

Wat Koh Deputy Principal Khath Dara Rachna said Thurs­day that fights between students are common during the annual sports tournaments, but never has a teacher had a gun pointed at him.

Police and district officials have apologized that they could not arrest the gang, Khath Dara Rachna said.

“The police apologized that they cannot arrest the suspects because they are sons of a high ranking official. They advised that I send a letter to the Governor of Phnom Penh and directly to [Senate President] Chea Sim,” Khath Dara Rachna said.

Relatives of senior government officials have been implicated in a number of violent attacks and other serious crimes in Cambo­dia.

The most recent involved the nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen who is currently on the run from police for the vicious assault on three Japanese tourists outside a Phnom Penh nightclub in December.

Requesting anonymity, the Wat Koh teacher who intervened during Tuesday’s attack said Thurs­day the apparent inability of police to prosecute the well-heeled children is an abuse of human rights.

According to the teacher, the student who pointed the handgun at him got into a vehicle with a government registration plate driven by an older youth. The vehicle was stopped briefly by police then allowed to leave when the passengers identified themselves, the teacher said.

“I feel very sorry because the authorities have the power and weapons but cannot crack down on these people,” he added.

Suon Rindy, governor of Daun Penh district where both schools are located, said Thursday the students who attacked Wat Koh school were from Sisowath school but were only the children of lower-ranking government officials.

According to Suon Rindy, the students only carried sticks during the raid and no arrests were made because no guns were present.

“We did not detain anyone because the fighting was simple and no one was injured,” Suon Rindy said.


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