Police are hunting for a group of villagers who allegedly beat six drunken, plainclothes policemen during a ceremony at a new school on the Cambodia-Laos border in the early hours on Monday morning.
So far, police have no confirmed motive for the attack in Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district that left two people seriously injured, including a police officer who was rushed to hospital in Phnom Penh with a cracked skull.
Theories being floated for the attack against members of Battalion 701 include that villagers were a group of illegal loggers exacting revenge or gangsters confronting rival interests.
Va Sophann, Siem Pang district police chief, said the villagers, who had beat the police officials with large sticks at the ceremony in Sre Sambo Commune, had yet to be identified because there were so many people at the ceremony.
“No one was arrested or detained yet after the incident, because the suspects have not been identified. There were so many people participating in the ceremony in opening a new school in the village and many villagers from other districts and villages joined in,” he said.
“The rumours were that about 30 timber smugglers beat those police officials, that they took revenge with those police officials who prohibited them from getting into Laos to cut wood, but I am not assured yet whether they are or not.”
Police hit back during the fight and one villager was left with severe bruises to his head, he added.
Sophann and all other sources contacted by the Post yesterday stressed that Cambodian villagers had a habit of becoming violent over trivial disputes when drunk at what should be jovial events.
Sun Ban, commander of Battalion 701 at the Cambodia-Laos border, said he was also unaware of the motive for the attack, but had tentatively identified suspects.
“We identified the suspects, but they went down into the forest, and we have not yet collected full evidence to accuse them,” he said.
He speculated the attack could have been provoked by an argument between rival gangsters, but said when new people come to a party in rural areas it was common for violence to erupt, especially when they were drunk or stepped on someone’s toe on the dance floor.
Ban said he regretted what had happened to the officers, but that his routine directives to subordinates not to enter unknown situations sometimes fall on deaf ears.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at firstname.lastname@example.org