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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fisherman backs off tale of bodies: police

Fisherman backs off tale of bodies: police

A fisherman in Ratanakkiri province, who claimed earlier this month to have seen eight corpses near the border with Vietnam, has said under questioning that he actually only saw one, according to police.

Sorl Yorn allegedly told villagers in O’yadav district that he had seen eight bodies, which he believed to be ethnic minority Montagnads from Vietnam, floating down the Sesan River on March 31.

But district police chief Chuob Vannarak told the Post that Yorn had retracted his story under questioning late last week.

“He [Yorn] said he saw only one, so it is not true,” Vannarak said.

He added that a commune official and local villagers had also been questioned.

Following reports of the bodies, two groups of ethnic Jarai villagers travelled to the area of the alleged sighting to investigate. Both reported seeing a partially buried male corpse.

On Wednesday, a third group visited the area and a nearby village, where they discovered that the body belonged to a local man, who villagers say was “mentally ill” and had drowned in the river.

Sesan commune police chief Souv Yung summonsed Yorn for further questioning on Saturday, under the orders of his superiors, but said that he had not shown up.

“They [the police] know of only one corpse of a mentally ill villager who drowned and died. But the villager saw eight, so we just want him to clarify,” Yung said.

“If we do not question him, we would be blamed for hiding information about a murder and would be accused of laziness,” he added.

The Post was unable to reach Yorn yesterday. Local villagers said he had left the area following the second summons.

Meanwhile, villagers said 23 Montagnard asylum seekers remained in hiding in the province yesterday, having fled alleged persecution in Vietnam.

Since October, dozens of Montagnards have fled to Cambodia. Thirteen have been granted refugee status, 11 others have reached Phnom Penh but have not been allowed to register their claims and many more have been deported back to Vietnam.

Vannarak yesterday said he wasn’t aware of Montagnards hiding in the province.

“I saw something [about it] on Facebook, but I am not sure it is true or not. It is difficult,” he said.

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