Three Kandal police officers who allegedly beat a man to death in October have been fired for failing to show up to work, according to a Ministry of Interior statement.
The announcement, dated January 18 but disseminated via Fresh News on Friday, stated that the three men – Sa’ang district deputy police chief Pheadey Vitou, 33; head of police immigration bureau Chhay Sina, 33; and district deputy chief of forensic police Kheang Songtheng, 31 – had been dismissed for “abandoning their occupation”.
“[Interior Minister Sar Kheng] decided to implement discipline for the three police officers of the general commissariat of the National Police by removing their ranks and firing them from the National Police framework,” it reads.
Their dismissal will take effect from March, when they will be stripped of their salaries and bonuses.
The three men fled and have not been seen since after accusations they beat Chamroeun Seyha, 26, so viciously that he later died of his injuries in hospital.
Tit Leap, 22, was also allegedly beaten in the same incident while in police custody. Police have repeatedly claimed it was an act of mob violence after one of the officers, Sina, mistakenly identified Leap and Seyha, among others, as thieves.
Kandal deputy prosecutor Sam Rithyveasna yesterday said the case was ongoing but the defendants’ lawyers had asked for a delay and that he would re-issue a summons when his schedule allowed.
“Even though the family of the deceased accepted the compensation, if we find them guilty of beating him to death . . . we will charge them according to the law”, he said. “I will check my schedule first, and when I am free, I will do it.”
Seyha’s father-in-law, Mom Kry, confirmed his family had received $20,000 in compensation and cautiously welcomed the alleged offenders’ dismissal from the police force.
“I wanted the authorities to arrest them and punish them complying with the law ... I thank the Ministry of Interior for firing them,” Kry said.
“If they did not beat him, they would come to show themselves, therefore they must have beaten my son-in-law to death . . . They are the authorities and they know the law but they committed the crime.”
He added that the seeming lack of urgency around the court case hinted at “conspiracy” and said if police truly wanted it, the three could be arrested immediately.
Social analyst Dr Meas Ny said this case, combined with a high-profile case in which three members of the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit were promoted after serving truncated jail sentences for beating opposition lawmakers, showed there were two different standards of justice – one for those in authority, and one for the general population.
“The prosecutor should be punctual and reliable, not just when they have free time . . . this is a careless kind of treatment, and it is adding more to the loss of faith in the justice system the Cambodian people perceive,” Ny said.
Kirth Chantharith, deputy National Police chief, said he was unaware the men had been fired, while Kandal provincial police chief Eav Chamroeun declined to comment, saying he was in a meeting.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ERIN HANDLEY