A Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldier was charged yesterday by Preah Vihear Provincial Court and held in pretrial detention for the fatal shooting of a teenage soybean farmer.
Poeun Tash, 30, a soldier from Unit 41 in Kulen district, was charged with murder and possession of a weapon without permission, according to provincial deputy prosecutor Sreng Vuthea.
Kaing Soeum, the soldier who lent Tash the assault rifle on Sunday, was also charged in absentia. Soeum remains at-large with a warrant out for his arrest.
“It was not [Tash’s] own rifle, he borrowed it . . . lying that he was going into the forest to shoot a monkey, but instead, he shot and killed another person,” Vuthea said.
In his confession to police, Tash admitted to entering the forest, where he spotted villagers planting soybeans on what he claims was land belonging to his boss, Major Sun Horm. Tash claimed that he tried to stop the villagers, but they refused.
“He shot once in the air and once at the ground, but more and more villagers walked towards him, so he shot at them, killing Try Chamroeum,” Vuthea said, basing the account on the perpetrator’s confession.
Svay Min, father of the 19-year-old victim and a volunteer at the Cambodian Red Cross in Siem Reap’s Chi Kraeng district, urged police yesterday to seek justice further up the chain of command.
“Bringing the perpetrator to jail is not enough and not fair. The court needs to look for the one who ordered the shooting,” Min said.
He added that with the price of land in the area increasing to $3,000 per hectare, wealthy and powerful businessmen have been trying to kick villagers off their land, often using threats of violence.
“They always demand we leave, and when we refuse, the misfortune happens to us.”
Min said his son was just a grade nine student helping his family – migrant farm labourers – plant soybeans during school vacation.
“You don’t know how much I suffer from the loss of my son,” he said. “I cannot sleep or eat.”