Three police officers in Takeo province are in detention at the provincial police station after they were accused of beating to death a defenseless amputee, police and witnesses said Sunday.
Koh Andet district police officers Meas Ron, Phom Yeam and Sam Yann were arrested Oct 9, after witnesses reported seeing the officers savagely beat Keo Yann, 40, during an argument at the victim’s home in a remote area of Takeo near the Vietnamese border, provincial police Chief Vuth Phally said.
Keo Yann, who lost his left leg to a land mine during his years as a soldier, died soon after the beating from his injuries, he said.
“We temporarily detained them. We are waiting for the prosecutor to consider the case,” Vuth Phally said.
After villagers reported the incident to the officers’ superiors, the trio told police that they went to Keo Yann’s home intent on arresting him after neighbors reported that he was beating his wife, Vuth Phally said.
According to the officers, after they snapped a handcuff on one of his wrists, Keo Yann wriggled free of police and began to fight back, the police chief said. As Keo Yann struggled, they said, the loose handcuff dangling from his wrist whipped around and fatally struck him in the head.
“Police had no intention to kill him. They just wanted to educate him, but the policemen were careless,” Vuth Phally said.
Witnesses, however, provided a different story of the encounter.
A district military police officer, who witnessed the incident but declined to be named for fear of retribution, said Sunday the officers went to Keo Yann’s home with the intent of arresting the victim’s brother-in-law Sao Bin, who lived with Keo Yann.
A neighbor filed a complaint, accusing Sao Bin of eating a gift of fruit intended for the complainant’s wife, the witness said.
Keo Yann and the officers began to argue heatedly over his relative’s arrest. At this point, the witness said, one officer held Keo Yann while another beat him on the head with a pair of handcuffs, splitting open his skull. A third officer restrained Keo Yann’s wife, the witness said.
Men Makara, provincial director of the rights group Adhoc, said his organization’s independent investigation of the incident confirmed the witness’ story. Adhoc will investigate the case further, he said.
Keo Yann’s wife accepted $1,500 and 100 kg of rice from police as compensation for her husband’s death and has not filed a complaint, Vuth Phally said.
The military police officer expressed skepticism over the wife’s motivations for not taking action against the officers involved in Keo Yann’s death.
“The victim’s wife dares not file a complaint against the police, because she thinks it is useless,” the officer said.
Vuth Phally said he has turned the case over to the provincial prosecutor. Chief provincial Prosecutor Kann Cheoun could not be reached Sunday. His deputy, Hean Rith, declined to comment and deferred questions to his boss.