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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Top provincial ag official implicated in gunplay in Siem Reap

Top provincial ag official implicated in gunplay in Siem Reap

Local police and members of a tourism community in Siem Reap province have accused an agricultural department officer of being involved in a holiday excursion on the Tonle Sap lake during which an unknown member of his group fired a gun seven times in the air in anger.

An April 18 police report from the province’s Chreav commune police accuses Team Kimsoth, head of Siem Reap’s provincial agriculture department, of being part of a group of 20 people on a trip to the Tonle Sap lake during the recently concluded Khmer New Year holiday.

According to the report, the group, carrying bottles of whiskey and nets, stopped at a small island in the lake and started fishing. When a representative of the local tourism community asked them to stop, an argument broke out.

On the way back from the island, one of the boaters allegedly shot seven bullets in the air. Police, who found six empty bullet casings in the boat, said they are on the lookout for the man who did the shooting and have called Kimsoth – the senior-most official on the trip – in for questioning.

According to Siem reap town police chief Tit Narong, Kimsoth will come in for questioning today. “We just want to know whether he shot or not, and then we can report to our superiors,” Narong said.

Reached yesterday, Kimsoth denied having any involvement with the shooting. “The shooting was in the middle of the lake. I did not know because it was on different boat,” he said.

Putting forth his 30 years of government service, during which he said he had never used a firearm, he instead pointed the finger at five local journalists, whom he claimed were trying to extort him for his alleged involvement in the incident.

“They heard I was involved and tried to get money from me. There were five journalists who came to demand $50 each,” he said. “I told them I did not do anything wrong.”

Kong Mongkol, head of the tourism community in Chreav commune, said he had asked one of his staffers to assist the party on the water, thinking it was a family excursion, but was taken aback when he saw they had brought along liquor and fishing nets.

“They caught fish and I told my colleague to stop them as it was in the tourist area. But they still continued, and his team drank wine and started to quarrel with him,” he said.

Mongkol said that the person who shot in the air was in the same boat as Kimsoth, but seemed to absolve the agriculture official by saying that the shooter was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, whereas Kimsoth was wearing a short-sleeve shirt.

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