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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rival police chiefs set to slug it out to the bitter end

Rival police chiefs set to slug it out to the bitter end

AN internecine feud between two powerful members of the police forces is intensifying,

with at least one set of court charges pending and fears of violence growing.

Chief of Phnom Penh immigration police Mok Chito is seeking the arrest of Heng Peo,

deputy chief of the national anti-drug police. Both are CPP members.

Peo is suspected of masterminding a June assassination attempt against Thong Uy Pang,

editor of the CPP-friendly Koh Santepheap (Island of Peace) newspaper, but he denies

the charges.

Chito said he is worried about his own safety.

"What I am very much concerned about, is that the offender is arranging revenge

against me."

Chito sent a Nov 11 letter to Hun Sen and co-Interior Minister Sar Kheng, advising

them of his worries that Heng Peo may act against him because he had investigated

the case and targeted Peo, according to a reprint in Koh Sante-pheap Dec 6.

Chito's letter also reported to the Prime Minister on his probe's result that Heng

Veng, a member of Peo's anti-drug unit, and his colleagues had shot Uy Pang and his

bodyguard.

Heng Veng was injured by Pang's bodyguard, and was taken to Vietnam by Heng Peo and

two of his followers three hours after the incident took place, said Chito's letter,

which also included names of witnesses, a passenger manifest of Royal Air Cambodge,

and a Vietnam hospital certificate.

Chito said his investigation was concluded and submitted to the court on Aug 19,

but that it was up to the court to take further action such as issuing an arrest

warrant.

Yet Chariya, deputy prosecutor of the municipal court, would only acknowledge that

the case of Thong Uy Pang had already reached the court.

Heng Peo asserted the charges have been manufactured to defame him, noting that if

the court were serious it would not have let five months pass without an arrest.

"It is a groundless allegation," he said.

"If I am guilty, why have they not arrested me? It is a personal problem, they

want to defame me."

Peo acknowledged that he had been to Vietnam at the time, but on a pre-planned trip

with the permission of the Ministry of Interior.

"It was a coincidence... If the manifest were real evidence, I should have been

arrested."

He scoffed at the idea that he was out for revenge, and said he was confident that

a court would exonerate him.

"You do not have to believe me, and the others as well, but only believe the

evidence," he said. "This case should be left to the court to decide."

He said that he would urge the court to throw out the case, adding that he is preparing

to file defamation charges against Chito and Thong Uy Pang next week.

Pang's paper has been providing graphic coverage of the case. Pang told the Post

that he believes Heng Peo to be the ringleader of the attempt on his life.

"Heng Peo accompanied the killer to Vietnam, we have enough evidence,"

he said angrily.

Pang filed a complaint directly to then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen after the shooting.

Hun Sen sent it to all the police bureaus with a personal note asking that they all

cooperate on the case, according to Mok Chito.

"I had been ordered from the top level to help," said Chito, explaining

why he was investigating a case not normally in his jurisdiction.

"And on the other hand, because the criminal police chief is new, I was asked

to help."

Chito, a former criminal police chief, has reportedly been suspended since the feud

broke out.

He declined to comment directly on his suspension, saying: "It is up to the

high ranking [officers], the low ranks just follow."

Heng Peo has run afoul of other fellow law enforcement officers in the past.

In March gendarmerie police surrounded and shot at his house after one of their number

was arrested on a drug smuggling charge.

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