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Drunken officer fires shots

ENRAGED over a perceived slight, an RCAF commander is alleged to have drunkenly shot into the air at least 10 times, marking the second time in a week that a member of the military has been fingered for illicit weapons use.

But Colonel Men Meas, commander of the 145th regiment based in Pursat’s Veal Veng district, will neither face charges nor be removed from his position for the Thursday incident, according to his superior.

Brigadier General Chhum Seng Huon, deputy commander of the 14th Intervention Brigade, said yesterday that the shooting occurred after Meas grew angry when he discovered his name wasn’t on a list of supporters of the Cambodian People’s Party.

Deputy and regional commanders had convened that day in Thma Da commune to discuss security issues, said Brigadier General Huon. During the meeting, organisers revealed a list put together by the Ministry of Defence that contained names of ruling party member commanders and deputy commanders who were assigned by the ministry to strengthen party support in the area.

“He got disappointed and angry because he did not see his name on the list of helping and strengethening the party’s supporters in his commune,” Brigadier General Huon told the Post yesterday.

“To reduce his temper, after drinking he drove his car from the restaurant and fired about 10 bullets in the air, but no one was injured.”

Huon said that after the shooting, Meas drove his car to his headquarters, where superiors confronted him about loud gunshot noises.

“According to military discipline, shooting sprees are strictly prohibited and in violation of military laws,”  he said.

Meas has not been detained, however, and will receive advice and “education” on proper firearm usage some time this month.

That was not enough, Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said.

“It should be more serious, but it’s not surprising. You’ve seen so many incidents,” he told the Post yesterday.

Virak said the recurring problem was at its worst during the early 1990s, when military officials would pull out guns on the flimsiest  of provocations.

“In the 1990s, if they were not happy with the service in a restaurant, instead of not tipping, they would fire into the ground or injure the wait staff. So to that extent, it’s better now, but there is still the general attitude. We seem to not move away from that kind of society.”

The latest incident came one day after a soldier and four civilians allegedly blasted three shots into the air across the street from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

The five were arrested and charged on Sunday with illegal weapons possession.  

In September, Prime Minister Hun Sen gave a speech calling for stricter measures against rogue officials, warning that he did not want to see any more media stories about the government failing to hold the powerful accountable for breaking the law.

Tourism and public safety were at stake when high-ranking officials and their “gangster sons” were allowed to flout the law openly, he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JOE FREEMAN

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