‘Untouchable’ Sends Man Under the Cloth

Speaking by telephone Mon­day from a Kandal province pagoda, a Phnom Penh anti-terrorist police official recounted how he feared for his life after a guns-drawn run-in with the son of Hing Bunheang, deputy commander of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s special bodyguard unit.

Pheng Vannak, deputy chief of the municipal anti-terrorist police, said he donned a robe and shaved his head after Heng Chamroeun and his companions threatened him Friday and police refused to properly investigate the incident.

Pheng Vannak said he was driving to his house in Kandal’s Takhmau district at about 7 pm when he noticed a Lexus sports utility vehicle overtaking him.

He said the Lexus passed him, blaring its horn and nearly running him off the road, before swerving to a halt on the road’s shoulder.

Pheng Vannak said he parked behind the offending vehicle, which had civilian plates, and ap­proached it on foot.

But as he neared, the tinted windows dropped to reveal four guns trained on him, he said.

“When I saw the guns, I bowed and apologized and asked them to go ahead. They shouted, ‘If you don’t want to die, go away.’”

Pheng Vannak went away, to Takhmau district police station, where he reported the incident and the Lexus’ license plate number.

He said police told him that he had just met Hing Chamroeun, owner of the Lexus and the house in front of which it had parked. They told him Hing Chamroeun was “untouchable,” he said.

Nonetheless, one police official accompanied Pheng Vannak on motorbikes to Hing Chamroeun’s house. But bodyguards outside the house saw them approaching and went for AK-47 rifles and K-54 handguns, urging each other to “kill them,” Pheng Vannak said.

Pheng Vannak and the policeman fled.

Takhmau district police Chief Song Morystia confirmed Mon­day that his department received a verbal complaint from Pheng Vannak but said there would be no investigation unless a written complaint is filed. “I sent my officer up [to Hing Chamroeun’s house] but he has not reported anything to me yet,” he said.

District Penal Police Chief Real Ream confirmed that an officer was sent to Hing Chamroeun’s house to investigate Pheng Van­nak’s complaint. He also denied having received a report.

A relative of Pheng Vannak, who declined to be named, said he too had accompanied Pheng Van­nak and the district policeman to Hing Chamroeun’s house. He said the bodyguards recognized Pheng Vannak and tried to stop the three men. He said the bodyguards then ran in­side, shouting for guns to kill them.

Numerous officials said Mon­day they did not know how to contact Hing Chamroeun. His father, Hing Bunheang, refused to speak to a reporter.

Huy Piseth, the nominal commander of Hun Sen’s 2,000-strong bodyguard unit, also declined to comment.

Pheng Vannak said he would leave the monastery soon, after notifying rights groups about his predicament, “so that when I disappear or die,” people will know who was responsible.

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