The last words of 6-year-old Pha Chharan were still ringing in his mother’s ears hours after the child was pronounced dead on arrival at Tbong Khmum Provincial Hospital early yesterday morning.
“Mum, please hug me and help me.”
“He did not tell me how hurt he was,” Yam Sophorn, his 31-year-old mother, said. “He kept repeating to himself for more than half an hour on the way to the hospital. Then my son died.”
The death marked the tragic end of an hours-long standoff with police on Tuesday night, when the young boy was stabbed and slashed by his mentally disturbed uncle, who was then brought down in a hail of bullets.
Chharan had gone to Kak commune’s Kanche village at about 10am on Tuesday to visit his uncle, Him Sokna, 22.
He often rode his bike along the 2-kilometre road from the family home in neighbouring Bosti village to visit the man, who would give him money, his mother said. What he didn’t know was that Sokna had not been himself recently.
“I was shocked when my neighbour phoned me to tell me that my son was being held prisoner and had had his hands and legs bound,” she added.
Rushing to the scene, Sophorn pleaded wtih her brother-in-law to release the child.
“When I arrived there, I begged him to release my son, but he brandished knives and threatened me. He told me not to worry, that he would release him,” she said.
Hundreds of onlookers and police joined in the calls for Sokna to stand down, but to no avail.
Yem Run, Kanche village chief, yesterday described the scene.
“We asked him what he wanted, but he did not tell us. He only ordered us to get away from the boy or he would kill him,” he said.
Mao Pov, police chief of Tbong Khmum, said provincial, military and Interior Ministry police tried to trick Sokna into taking sedatives.
“At first, we put sleeping medicine in an energy drink, but he did not drink it. We also put it in some in food,” he said.
Police then filled the house with smoke to make Sokna pass out.
“After that, police came up from behind the house to help the boy. They got to him, but unfortunately he was tied by rope to a pillar in the house,” Run said.
“The man [Sokna] ran towards two police officers to stab them. Seeing him, they ran out of the house.”
Before police could devise a new strategy, Sokna began to slice at Chharan with two knives, before running at them.
“The police shot him when they heard he had cut my son’s throat. Then I had no fear anymore, and I went to hug my son. I saw that his hands were tied with a krama and his legs with a rope. His legs were hacked at many times,” Sophorn said.
Police chief Pov said the authorities “did not want to shoot him, but we wanted to defend ourselves when he chased us. So we shot him in the legs, shoulder and stomach until he died. We regret this”.
Kanche villagers had grown increasingly wary of Sokna over the past three months, claiming he had been loved by all until he began making death threats and acting erratically in May.
Three days before the attack, Sokna had beaten his mother and tried to strangle his father, villager Om Yot, 53, said. “Everyone in the village feared him.”
His parents had since stopped sleeping in the house, his father said.
“My wife and I dared not to sleep at home for three days already, because he had choked me and beat my wife,” he said, adding that the family had sought intervention from a traditional healer many times.
“Had I known Chharan was coming, I wouldn’t have allowed him to enter the house. I deeply regret what happened. I lost my grandson and son, but I could not help when it happened.”
Grieving mother Sophorn cradled a photo of her son under the house where he was killed yesterday afternoon, shortly after his funeral was held.
“I’ll never forget my son’s last words. But, he did not cry,” she said.