Two military police officials and a tractor driver in Preah Vihear have been accused of beating a timber hauler and injuring a female bystander following an argument over an alleged $200 shakedown.
On Tuesday afternoon, four men from Tbeng Meanchey district’s Pou commune who were hauling uprooted koki tree stumps from the protected Preah Rokar Forest were stopped by four military policemen in the commune.
The military police allegedly demanded 200,000 riel ($50) from each of the timber haulers in exchange for being allowed to go on hassle-free, according to community representative Pich Porn.
“[The haulers] said they could not afford it, they had no money for Pchum Ben and some of their wives had just given birth,” said Pich.
The haulers offered 50,000 riel (about $12) a head instead but officials refused, initiating a scuffle that ended with two of the military policemen allegedly beating one of the haulers, who was kicked in the stomach several times, said Pich.
Pich said the beaten man, 32-year-old Chor Muon, was sent to the provincial hospital and released yesterday.
But the alleged violence did not end there.
After the incident, military police called the Forestry Administration, which sent four tractors to transport the seized timber to the police station.
According to Luot Sang, a staffer from NGO Ponlork Khmer, one of the drivers then hit a female bystander with his tractor.
The woman, 30-year-old Khang Un, remains in the provincial referral hospital with injuries to her thigh. The hospital’s director said that her condition was not serious.
The two incidents infuriated the community in Pou, with 300 of them gathering at the Preah Vihear Provincial Hall on Tuesday evening to demand authorities investigate the injuries, both of which they said were deliberate.
Sok Hay, provincial hall director, said the letter was received and that the case was now being investigated.
However, Preah Vihear provincial military police commander Kang Saokun denied the villagers’ allegations.
“There was no hitting,” he said. “We went there on the request of the Forestry Administration and the deputy provincial prosecutor was there, too. The allegations are untrue.”
He said that some of the timber haulers were drunk and grabbed a metal pipe to beat the officers, leading to a scuffle which caused only “slight” injuries.