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Mother injured in the crossfire of shootout

A young mother was the victim of a gunfight between Kratie police and alleged timber smugglers in Snuol district on Friday.

El Ry, a mother of 23, was sleeping in her home as she breastfed her 2-month-old baby when she was seriously injured by two bullets in the left shoulder and right arm.

Ry, whose baby was unharmed, was taken to hospital by the police. She is expected to recover in 10 days, according to Keang Hong, provincial hospital director.

The gunfight erupted near Ry’s home following a 90-minute nighttime chase between police and a van carrying nine pieces of timber, which finally stopped after it got mired in mud.

“The driver escaped the van and opened fire on the police”, Nhan Soyun, Snuol district deputy police chief, said.

The van’s driver and passenger, two men known as Meng Hong and “Mr Mab”, were arrested and sent to the provincial military police station.

Horn Hak, the deputy prosecutor who initially spotted the van, said a Toyota Camry driven by two army officers, known as Pov and Sy, tried to block police vehicles during the chase.

“The officers own the timber,” Hak said. “They hired Mr Hong to transport timber for them. We risked our lives to crack down on this at night. It is very dangerous for us.”

Hak said after the gunfire, a man appeared and told him that his wife was injured by the bullets.

“We do not know if she was injured from our bullets or those of the timber transporter,” Hak said.

“Regardless, we sent the woman to hospital, and I consider myself responsible for the injuries.”

The provincial authorities and Hak donated more than $325 to the woman, along with some milk.

Meng Hong was charged with illegally transporting forest products and put under pretrial detention, while Mab was released because he was just employed to drive the car, said Horn Hak and prosecutory chief Ty Sovin Thal.

The army officers disappeared after the incident and were charged in absentia with interfering in officials’ work.

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