Young RCAF Officer Wanted in Fatal Shooting

Phnom Penh police are searching for Heng Phannith, 21, an RCAF lieutenant suspected of killing one and injuring two others early Thursday morning in front of the Royal Palace.

“We know a suspect’s identity now,” said Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh municipal police chief. “We went to the suspect’s house but he has not been home since last night.”

Investigators believe an enraged Heng Phannith opened fire on a group of innocent bystanders dining at vendor stands about 1 am, after people traveling in three vehicles smashed up the suspect’s Lexus SUV. Police also believe Heng Phannith lives with his parents in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, but because he has not returned there since the shooting, municipal police are requesting that the court allow authorities in other provinces to make an arrest, Touch Naruth said.

The level of violence perpetuated by armed men has gone up, Touch Naruth said.

“I can say the shooting is increasing due to a few cases that took place in September. Most of them shoot for fun,” he said.

Em Sam Ath, a monitor for the human rights group Licadho, said his organization is starting to investigate this most recent shooting.

“Illegal shooting has increased gradually during the past four months compared to last year,” he added. “And police do not take the perpetrators to court.”

Instead, wealthy families compensate victims’ families with cash payments, Em Sam Ath said, adding that such payments are not sufficient to prevent criminal prosecution.


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