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Gun charge for Preah Vihear top cop

121002_04

Preah Vihear provincial police chief Mao Pao (2nd L) speaks with police in Siem Reap after a drunken incident on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Photograph supplied

Preah Vihear provincial police chief Mao Pao (2nd L) speaks with police in Siem Reap after a drunken incident on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Photograph supplied

The provincial police chief of Preah Vihear was charged yesterday with illegal shooting and intentional destruction of property after drunkenly opening fire in a Siem Reap hotel on Sunday night – barely a week after the premier called for tougher punishments for officials who brandish their guns.

Following questioning by police and prosecutors, police chief Mao Pov was immediately released “after he apologised for his mistake”, said Siem Reap provincial prosecutor Ty Sovienthal.

“We didn’t detain him because the owner of the hotel had no reason to sue Mao Pov. But we still charged him with illegally shooting and intentional property damage,” said Sovienthal.

According to Sovienthal, the police chief had become highly inebriated during dinner at the Lok Yen Hotel and Restaurant in Siem Reap and, after returning to his room, became convinced an “enemy” had followed him.

“He opened his door and immediately he took a gun from his bodyguards and opened fire four or five times. Mao Pov believed that someone had kicked his door, thus he had to shoot in order to protect himself,” said Soveinthal.

On September 21, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on local authorities to crack down on such thuggish incidents, warning they had become a threat to public safety.

“I don’t want to hear from media reports any more that a person who opened fire was not arrested because they have a powerful person behind them,” the premier said during a speech about tourism.

Preah Vihear Provincial Governor Um Mara said yesterday that he hadn’t heard of the incident and played down responsibility when asked whether he would seek any punishment against the police chief.

“I don’t know, because the illegal action took place in Siem Reap,” he said, before adding that he was too busy to speak.

The shooting is just the latest in a string of similar incidents involving officials and the powerful, and rights groups have been lobbying for stricter penalties.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the impunity in such cases underscored the imbalances in the justice system.

“If it happened to anybody else, that person would be arrested immediately,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thik Kaliyann at kaliyann.thik@phnompenhpost.com reporting from Siem Reap
With assistance from Abby Seif

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