Officials in Kompong Cham province said Sunday that a local police chief known for his tough stance against illegal fishing has been missing since Saturday morning and was suspected dead after a search party came up empty handed.
Chan Sophal, 48, the police chief of Srei Santhor district’s Svay Por commune, went to investigate a report of illegal fishing in the area on Saturday morning and has not been seen or heard from since 11 a.m. that day, said No Lab, a commune councilor.
“At about 9 a.m. he went to investigate after he got a report from villagers that some people were fishing illegally in the area,” Mr. Lab said. “The authorities lost communication with him at about 11 a.m.”
District police chief Kheng Sreng said Mr. Sophal’s motorbike was found on Saturday abandoned in a duck farm near the area he had gone to investigate, along with his uniform, which he said Mr. Sophal would often leave behind when he went to investigate a case.
He said a team of about 100 villagers and police had been searching the area for Mr. Sophal but had yet to find a trace, leading them to suspect that he had been murdered by the illegal fishermen he went to investigate.
“We believe he died, because nobody has been able to contact him since yesterday,” Mr. Sreng said. “We suspect that he was killed by someone while he was in the flooded area and that someone may have buried his body in the mud.”
He said police were questioning locals and had a list of two or three suspects, but had yet to make any arrests.
Mr. Sreng said there were many fishermen operating illegally in the area and that Mr. Sophal had antagonized a number of them over the past few years.
“Since 2012, First Lieutenant Chan Sophal arrested five suspects for illegal fishing and cracked down on 10 cases in his area,” Mr. Sreng said. “Some people were angry with him because he always put a stop to their activities.”