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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Army families terrorize Sihanoukville

Army families terrorize Sihanoukville

HUMAN RIGHTS workers in Sihanoukville are concerned about the involvement of the

relatives of high-ranking military officials in recent cases which have seen one

man beaten to death and a school terrorized by armed men.

In the first

case an accountant for the municipality was beaten to death by a group of armed

men that locals said included the nephew of co-defence minister Tea

Banh.

In the second case a minor schoolyard altercation ended with the

beating of two students by the bodyguard of the region's deputy commander and

threats to other students by men armed with an M-16, AK-47 and a M-79 grenade

launcher.

Som Sarin, the head of the local office of human rights group

Adhoc, said the accountant, Bun Theang, 46, was killed after running up a $195

drinks bill at a local bar. When he offered to pay over time, the owner's

daughter berated him. He then slapped her. A short time later a group of armed

men arrived and beat him with rifle butts. He died later in

hospital

Sarin said that he could not file a complaint to the court

because no-one present, even his friends, were prepared to give evidence.

He

said one witness said to him: "If I talk they will shoot me."

Sarin has

asked Adhoc in Phnom Penh to investigate the case because he is now concerned

for his own safety because of the people involved and their

relatives.

Meanwhile there is little being done by the authorities. The

Gendarmerie commander for Sihanoukville, Heang Nin, said they discovered the

killing too late to do anything.

Meanwhile in the second case staff and

students at Sihanoukville High School are angry that the deputy military

commander for the region, Mom Sokha, provided guns, a grenade launcher and a

bodyguard to help his 15-year-old son Virak take revenge on two fellow

students.

Sihanoukville High School vice-director Khor Vutthy said that

the problem began on Oct 21 when Sokha's son Mom Virak, a student at the school

was abused and threatend by two of his class mates - Darith and Tha.

The

next day Virak arrived at school with his brother and a soldier in army uniform.

One of them was carrying a rifle; two other men waited in the car they arrived

in.

Vutthy said that the two men then went into the school canteen where

they found Darith and Tha. They then beat both the students round the neck and

head before marching them through the school and driving off with

them.

They were returned a short time later, about 8am the same morning,

but did not say what happened to them.

Vutthy said the men then returned

to the school about 15 minutes later and threatened a student when he told them

guns were banned at the school.

He said the school director asked her

staff to invite the armed men to come to her office to resolve the problem but

they refused and one of the men, who was dressed in military uniform, told her

"not to get tough with a soldier".

The Gendarmerie were called and

arrested the men and those in the car, but released them 48 hours

later

Heang Nin said he freed the men without charging them because he

had been ordered not to by his boss.

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