Bodies will 'feed the fish'
Six of the nine men shot by gunmen who rights workers said were soldiers from RCAF Div 51 in Kampong Thom on April 2.
THE motive remains unclear but the result isn't: nine men executed in Kampong Thom on April 2 and mounting evidence that soldiers in the area were the murderers. No arrests have been made.
Rights workers believe that the evidence is so strong that authorities will be forced take action against the guilty even though such action is rare.
"There is not enough [being done] to stop these kind of atrocities from happening," one rights worker said.
"In this case we actually hope that the authorities will hold someone responsible."
Soldiers from Division 51 in Kampong Thom's Steung district detained a group of men, bound their hands, confiscated an AK-47 and two grenades - commonly used for fishing - and were leading them toward the neighboring Chemous Mountain, according to a human rights report on the killings, released on condition that the organization not be cited.
"There is no need to go so far, let's kill them here," one soldier reportedly told his colleagues at the time. "It will feed the fish."
At that moment one of the captives attempted to flee: "Nhiek Pra started running to escape but one soldier ran after him and shot him dead.
"At that moment, [the] others also tried escaping but they couldn't go far as their hands were tied behind their backs.
"The military tripped the men and shot them in the head."
Rights workers concluded after an extensive investigation that the nine men were killed by Division 51 soldiers, although the exact motive remains uncertain.
While some of the men were shot in the back or other parts of the body, and some bore signs of rifle-butting, all nine were shot in the head at least once - as was clear from photos taken two days after the killing.
According to Rasmei Kam-puchea, Kampong Svay district military commander Ruos Sophal said that the killings took place "outside of my soldiers' jurisdiction" and claimed that locals, angry at four alleged water buffalo thieves, simply executed them and five of their companions.
Rights workers said that went against evidence from their investigation.
They also lamented that local police did not begin their investigation into the killing till more than a week later and, as the bodies had already been cremated, had little to go on.
Rights investigators also produced an interview with a military official in the area who heard the killers radio to say they had killed eight water buffalo-thieves and injured a ninth, and confiscated their weapons.
They also reportedly contacted another military official to seek information on the men they had just killed. A military official confirmed that the killings were carried out by Division 51 soldiers.
The report also cited a militiaman in the area who reportedly pointed the finger at local military authorities, explaining that Divisions 15, 51 and 55 had mobilized in the area just before the executions. "The men were killed by those military," he said.