The Phnom Penh police commissioner accused of slapping three military police officers is unlikely to receive even a slap on the wrist, military police said yesterday, confirming that the complaint had been dropped – information that came as a surprise to the alleged victim acting as the trio's representative.
National Military Police spokesman Colonel Kheng Tito said that General Sao Sokha, chief of the National Military Police, had ordered Phnom Penh Municipal Military Police Chief Major General Ya Kim Y to put an end to the dispute between Police Commissioner Choun Sovann and three military police officers he allegedly assaulted over a misunderstanding at the cremation site of King Father Norodom Sihanouk last week.
“It should be considered that this was just a learning experience for both our military police and police forces in the future,” Tito said.
“His Excellency, the commander General Sao Sokha, had ordered that this case should be compromised and put to an end,” he added, declining to elaborate on what lessons should be taken from the incident or on what the details of the so-called compromise would be.
Kim Y could not be reached for comment.
Military police officer Captain Vong Bunna, 53, one of the alleged victims and the group’s representative, said yesterday that he and fellow officers Soem Long-heng and Un Bunthon had already submitted lawsuits against Sovann to their commander, Kim Y, but hadn’t heard his complaint had been dropped until contacted by a Post reporter.
“I already submitted my lawsuit against General Choun Sovann to my military police commander last week,” he said. “Until now, I did not know about it [being dropped].”
Bunna said he would await word from his commanders and respect whatever decision they handed down.
Sovann yesterday confirmed that the matter was closed, and reiterated that he had never been involved in the first place.
“This case was solved, and was ended because nothing really happened as they said,” he explained.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak called the matter “a minor problem only”, and declined to comment on the particulars of the agreement. “He didn’t beat anyone, and everything has already been settled,” he said.
“I can say that we don’t want to spread this information publicly,” he added, saying all parties would prefer to let the problem quietly go away.
“Even the head of the military police and the leadership, they want to make this problem smaller and smaller, and now it is settled.”
Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said the hushed quashing of the complaint was likely a face-saving measure on the part of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“This is the culture in our society,” he said. “They don’t like to let their people fight with each other, because it affects the image of their party.”
Even if the complaint had gone forward, he continued, it would have been hard to find a court that would treat it fairly.
“The ruling party doesn’t want the parties to fight each other through the court and make a lot of noise in public.”