Three Arrests Made in Ranger Shooting Case

Three men have been arrested in connection with the fatal shootings of two Ministry of En­vi­ron­ment rangers in their sub-station at the en­trance to the Aural Wild­life San­c­tuary in Kompong Speu pro­vince last month, police said Tues­day.

The suspects—who include a po­lice officer who allegedly provided the M-16 assault rifle with which the ran­g­ers were gunned down —were illegal loggers motivated by re­venge, said Pek Chheng, Kom­pong Speu provincial penal police chief.

Authorities said alleged ringlead­er Prak Mean, 33, was arrested on Sunday along with local Aural district policeman Bun Sorn, 42. Prak Mean’s younger brother, Prak Mo­eun, 31, was arrested on Monday.

Prak Mean had been procuring illegal timber to supply his furniture-making business, police said.

“They were angry with the rangers in the Aural Wildlife Sanc­tuary because they seized their saws,” Pek Chheng said, adding that investigators are seeking two other suspects.

Pek Chheng said police seized four weapons—one M-16 and three AK-47s—during Prak Mo­eun’s ar­rest, which was conducted with the cooperation of the military police. Authorities are investigating whether the AK-47s have the same registration numbers as those looted from the rang­ers’ sub-station after the shootings.

Nup Oeun, Kompong Speu pro­vin­cial police chief, alleged Mon­day that Prak Mean was the hitman in the close-range shooting, which killed Ministry of En­vi­ron­ment rangers Kim Poch, 39, and Nuon Chorn, 27.

Mike Appleton, project manager for the Cardamom Mountains Wild­­­life Sanctuary Project for Fau­na & Flora International, an NGO that worked closely with the slain ran­gers, said: “We’re very en­cour­aged by the investigation that’s gone on so far and that suspects have been arrested.”

Just three weeks before the Aural Wildlife Sanctuary shooting, a ranger with a wildlife NGO was killed by gunmen—two of whom police said were decom­mis­sioned soldiers—in a mountain camp in Koh Kong province.




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