A military officer allegedly shot a neighbouring shopkeeper through the neck yesterday morning in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district after the victim gave him the lewd “penis” hand gesture, police and military officials said.
Khen Sovann, deputy chief of Phnom Penh Municipal Military Police, said yesterday that authorities were looking for Khon Sokheng, 31, an officer with the elite Royal Cambodian Armed Forces paratrooper unit Brigade 911, who was wanted in connection with the shooting of An Bory, 38, a gold seller at the Sam Han market.
“Khon Sokheng got angry with An Bory who had spat at him and gave him the penis,” said Sovann, referring to an offensive hand gesture.
“So he shot a bullet into the victim’s neck and caused him serious injuries in front of his shop.
“After the shooting, he drove off on his [Honda] Scoopy motorbike with his gun and escaped successfully from the place,” he added. “Our military police now are working hard in searching for him in order to bring [him in] for justice.”
Sovann said that the victim was immediately sent to Calmette Hospital by his wife and neighbours, and is alive, but in critical condition.
Huy Hean, chief of Toul Sangke commune police department, told the Post that the suspect and the victim lived near each other in Tuol Sangke village, where the victim and his family were in the gold and money exchange business. The suspect’s family sold mobile phones, he said.
Hean said that the two families had been engaged in a running feud stemming from perceived snobbishness on the part of the gold vendors, and that before the shooting, the two parties had exchanged heated words while opening their shops.
“We now are seeking the suspect’s arrest,” he added.
Yesterday’s shooting comes just two months after a call from Prime Minister Hun Sen to prosecute officials who misuse their weapons.
“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,” Hun Sen said in September.
Incidents involving guns and the well-connected are not uncommon in the Kingdom.
The Post has reported on a number of instances in which government and military officials have been accused of firing their guns in restaurants and karaoke parlours.
Former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith, for example, has yet to be tried after he allegedly shot three garment workers at a protest in February in front of hundreds of witnesses.
Dr Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the rights group Licadho, called the tendency of military officials to fire their weapons with impunity “a catastrophic one”.
“Armed forces should restrain themselves, while those in charge of training should feel responsible for erratic attitudes, completely unfitted with the mission of protecting the population and the country,” said Kek, via email.
“Those responsible for erratic shooting should be brought to justice, and those in charge of recruitment and training should reconsider their duty to be more efficient.”
A failure to do so, she added, would “indefinitely perpetuate a culture of violence, undermine the reputation and efficiency of security forces and destroy trust between the population and the authorities”.
Chab Pheakdey, commander of the 911th Military Paratrooper Unit, could not be reached for comment.
The unit came under fire by Human Rights Watch in 2010 for rights violations including violence and executions.