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Murder suspected in missing officer case

Police in Kampong Cham province are investigating the disappearance of a commune police chief who went missing on Saturday during an illegal fishing patrol, officials said yesterday.

Hor Vuthy, Srei Santhor district deputy police chief, told the Post that a team of district and provincial officers are still searching for the Svay Por commune police chief, 46-year-old Chan Sophal, who has not been seen since this weekend’s patrol.

According to Vuthy, Sophal drove a police motorbike to Kro Chab pond in Svay Por commune early on Saturday morning to look for illegal fishing activity.

He was unarmed and took a farm worker with him to show him the way to the pond, but let the farmer return after they had arrived.

At about 10am, Sophal called the deputy police chief and told him to prepare backup for the fishing bust. But when police arrived at the scene, Sophal was already gone.

“The police conclude that [Sophal] disappeared at the pond,” Vuthy said.

Following Sophal’s disappearance, a search party comprised of police and local villagers scoured the area until dark.

But, Vuthy said, the area proved too vast and the group found no trace of the missing police official before deciding to head back.

“[We think] he did not drown, but that he might have been killed out of [revenge], because he used to intercept illegal fishing in the area,” he said.

Just a few days before the incident, Vuthy said, Sophal had investigated a separate illegal fishing case, which police believe may be linked to his disappearance.

The team of officers investigating the case, led by Kampong Cham provincial police chief Pen Roth, said they have no further leads regarding the disappearance.

Earlier this year, 44-year-old Suon Chan, a reporter for Meakea Kampuchea (Cambodia’s Way) newspaper, was beaten to death in Kampong Chhnang province’s Cholkiri district in an attack that authorities believe may have been related to his reporting on illegal fishing.

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