High-ranking government officials on Thursday spoke publicly for the first time about an investigation into the shooting death of a man near Phnom Penh’s Monivong Bridge on Sunday following a day of protests by opposition demonstrators.
In interviews broadcast on radio, Council of Ministers Secretary of State Prak Sokhon and Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak acknowledged that an investigation is underway, but said officials have not pinned down who is responsible for killing Mao Sok Chan, 29, who was shot in the head. Several other people also suffered gunshot wounds during the same incident.
Eyewitnesses said they saw armed police officers firing live rounds at stone-throwing youths in the vicinity of the bridge, which was blockaded with razor wire on Sunday night, causing major traffic congestion and irritating trapped travelers.
“The Ministry of Interior decided to do an investigation into the incident that killed a man, and we do not know whether the [responsible] person was a demonstrator or not,” Mr. Sokhon said.
“We are doing the investigation to find the right and wrong.”
Lt. Gen. Sopheak said in a radio interview that while he did not have detailed information with regard to the investigation, “the authorities who patrolled on [September 15 and 16] carried no weapons that people would die from.”
“The authorities have only shields, batons and protection equipment.”
A journalist at the scene of the disturbances near the Monivong Bridge witnessed Military Police officers armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
To date, the official line from military police spokesman Brigadier General Kheng Tito has been that a member of the public, not the authorities, fired the lethal shot.
Neither Mr. Sokhon nor Lt. Gen. Sopheak would comment when reached Thursday.
One of the people injured in the shooting, a motorcycle taxi driver named Uon Sam On, 26, said he was questioned by unknown men at Calmette Hospital on Monday where he is recovering after being shot above his left elbow.
“They asked me whether I joined the demonstration or not,” he said of the men who wore civilian clothes.
“They asked what I was doing during the incident and when I was shot…. I thought they were working for an NGO,” he said.
“It is hurtful for me that the authorities would shoot at their own people, since we have the same blood.”