Weekend Marked by Spate of Drunken Shootings

A day after a military officer fired off a round from his handgun at a Phnom Penh restaurant, another officer and a government bodyguard were involved in separate drunken shootings on Sunday, police officials said Monday.

In one of the cases, Heng Bunchhin, a major in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), was drinking with friends at a house in Prek Pnov district on Sunday afternoon when he decided to fire his pistol into the air, according to Phuong Sophy, the district military police commander.

“The suspect had been drinking from the morning to the afternoon, then he took his gun out to show his friends. He then fired it four times into the sky,” Mr. Sophy said, adding that no one was hurt in the shooting.

He added that military police were patrolling in the area at the time of the shooting and quickly arrested Mr. Bunchhin.

“When we arrived at the house, he was still sitting and drinking while holding the gun. Then we immediately arrested him and sent him to the Phnom Penh municipal military police,” the commander said.

Military police spokesman Eng Hy said military police would send Mr. Bunchhin to the municipal court, as he had not been using a weapon issued to him by the Defense Ministry.

In a separate incident on Sunday, an unidentified “state bodyguard” fired a single round while attending a neighbor’s birthday party in Chbar Ampov district before fleeing on a motorbike, district police chief Em Saravuth said, adding that the suspect worked in Mondolkiri province but was visiting his wife’s home in Prek Thmei commune.

“In the evening, their neighbor invited him to drink beer at the party,” Mr. Saravuth said. “At 11 p.m., he took his gun out and asked the people there if they knew how powerful of a bodyguard he was. Then he fired one shot into the sky.”

Despite there being no injuries or complaints, the police chief said his forces were trying to identify and arrest the suspect.

“I don’t care who you are a bodyguard for. I don’t need people in my area firing weapons,” Mr. Saravuth said.

Defense Minister Tea Banh said that despite these recent shootings, his ministry had its officers under control.

“Sometimes it happens, but don’t worry,” General Banh said. “When the soldiers abuse somebody, we have the council to oversee the matter or the military court to work on it.”

“It does not happen frequently, because we have military rules and the bosses to control the officers,” he added.

On Saturday, Khy Tharakprachok, 33, who military police identified as an RCAF captain and a bodyguard for a high-ranking official, fired a single shot from his handgun into the air at the 3M Restaurant in Daun Penh district following a dare from friends.

On Sunday, deputy municipal military police chief Khen Sovann said Mr. Tharakprachok would face discipline according to “military rule.”

Mr. Hy, the military police spokesman, said Monday that this meant he would be tried by a military court, as Mr. Tharakprachok had discharged a weapon issued to him by the Defense Ministry.

Setting up tables Monday afternoon at the 3M Restaurant, manager Keurt Kouy said he was afraid of the armed bodyguards and soldiers who frequented his restaurant.

“When he fired his gun, we were very scared, and no one did anything to him because he was still holding the gun,” Mr. Kouy said, adding that this was not the first time a shooting had occurred at the restaurant.

Just over a year ago, he said, another intoxicated military officer who also worked as a bodyguard had fired off three shots into the sky.

“I worry about this problem. I’m scared and afraid about this because it is always happening,” he said.

“People always come here and try to show off what their job is and how powerful they are.”

(Additional reporting by Anthony Jensen)

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