A senior police official may face criminal charges for allegedly striking two military police officers guarding the crematorium of King Father Norodom Sihanouk yesterday, police said.
National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito said Phnom Penh Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Choun Sovann was accused of hitting military police officer Vong Bunna and another unnamed military police officer because he mistakenly believed the two men had allowed mourners access to the crematorium at Veal Preah Meru, the area in front of the National Museum, yesterday morning through an unofficial, restricted entrance.
“He probably didn't sleep enough last night because he is busy with work,” Tito said. “He got angry with our two military police officers who were guarding the Preah Meru site... So he took his I-com [radio] and hit them.”
According to Tito, a crowd who had come to pay their final respects to the King Father were climbing fences to enter the crematorium’s grounds, later pushing the fences aside to gain unfettered access to the grounds. The two guards had tried to stop the intruders but were unsuccessful.
When Sovann arrived, Tito continued, he assumed the two guards had opened the gates to allow the crowd access, and flew into a rage, hitting the two men with his hand-held radio.
The guards were spared further lashing when nearby police and military police intervened, Tito said. Both were later sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Military Police headquarters to give statements.
“He has a three-star general police rank and is the highest police official, but he used violence, and beat military police officers in public at the late King Father’s funeral ceremony,” Tito said of Sovann. “His activities have affected the national police’s reputation.
“He is the chief of police in Phnom Penh and was working for a national police institution,” he added, noting that Sovann had no authority over the military police. “He had no right to beat military police officers who work for another police institution.”
Tito said this case would be raised after the completion of the funeral ceremony, and that the two officers planned to file an official complaint in court against Sovann for committing a “violent act”.
The two military police officers, as well as Phnom Penh Municipal Military Police commander Brigadier General Ya Kim Y, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In an interview yesterday, Sovann adamantly denied the accusations, and maintained that as he was the head of security for the funeral, the two officers were indeed under his command.
“Working on behalf of the National Police, as well as being the operating commander of mixed police and military police for the late King Father’s funeral ceremony, I could not have done such a stupid thing as this,” he said.
Sovann added that if he had wanted the two officers beaten, he would have delegated the job.
“I have many of my own police officers under my command that I could have ordered to do this for me.”
Sovann admitted he had been angry with the two officers, but said that if he had actually committed the act, there would be evidence.
“If I had really done it... I think a photo of the violent acts would have been taken by other journalists or people who have iPhones or cameras, and they would post it on Facebook,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at firstname.lastname@example.org