Villagers Seek Ouster of Gun-Toting Police Officer

Dozens of villagers gathered outside the Samlei commune office in Svay Rieng province Thursday to demand the ouster of the deputy police chief, who used his AK-47 to break up a brawl involving his sons on Wednesday.

Meas Sophoan, 28, and Meas Sophan, 25—the sons of Samlei commune deputy police chief Masa Thoun—were drunk and blocked a road for no known reason outside a Khmer New Year party in Samlei Khang Choeung village, according to Kompong Ro district police chief Hem Samout.

A brawl then broke out between about 10 motorists and the brothers, who were beaten bloody and called their father to help.

Mr. Thoun, with assault rifle in tow, arrived and demanded to know why his sons had been beaten, Mr. Samout said. A group of more than 20 villagers surrounded him and attempted to wrest away the AK-47, at which time Mr. Thoun fired into the air, dispersing the crowd. Nobody was injured by the gunfire.

Mr. Samout said that although it appeared that Mr. Thoun and his sons were in the wrong, he personally did not have the authority to punish the deputy commune police chief.

“I have sent a report to provincial police to make a decision,” Mr. Samout said.

Samlei commune chief Chan Tin urged villagers to file an official complaint with his office rather than staging protests.

“Those villagers came to my office around 5 p.m. Wednesday and demanded Mr. Masa Thoun be fired because his sons have used violence many times in the village,” Mr. Tin said.

“I told them to file a complaint… and I will solve the problem.”

More than 200 residents of Samlei Khang Choeung village have thumbprinted a petition to have Mr. Thoun removed from his position due to his belligerent sons, according to villagers.

“We don’t need Mr. Thoun,” said Kong Bespiseth, one of the protesters. “He can’t even control his own sons, how can he control the commune?”

One of the Meas brothers was struck on the forehead with a farm tool, leaving him in need of 13 stitches for two separate head wounds, said Mr. Samout, the district police chief. The younger brother had his chin split and required five stitches.

Their father defended his actions Thursday.

“I tried to help my sons because people hit my sons. This is injustice, as many people beat them together,” Mr. Thoun said.

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