The chief bodyguard for Cambodia’s National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC) yesterday fatally shot two colleagues before killing himself at the centre’s Phnom Penh headquarters in what officials said was a murder-suicide sparked by a rejected marriage proposal.
Armed with a handgun, Sem Ratha, a 32-year-old who heads the centre’s bodyguard contingent, shot the centre’s human resources director, Oum Sophear, 35, and office assistant Seng Marina, 37, shortly after arriving at the complex in Tuol Kork district at about 9am before turning the gun on himself, according to military police spokesman Eng Hy.
Though Hy declined to provide further details, NPMEC director-general Sem Sovanny said the shooting was sparked by “a young lovers’ issue”. He said Marina – who was rushed to Phnom Penh’s Preah Kossamak hospital but died from her wounds – recently rejected a marriage proposal from the shooter.
“The guy proposed for an engagement, but the girl rejected because she felt that she is older than him,” Sovanny said. “He then proposed marriage, but [she] rejected him.”
Sovanny said the shooting of Sophear, a two-star general, was sparked by “jealousy”.
The National Police website yesterday described the incident as a “love triangle”, though sources working at the centre said there was no indication Sothear was romantically involved with Malina.
“These three are good people, with nice attitudes who talk politely,” one worker, who requested anonymity, said.
“Sophear is married and the two dead people are single. I think Oum Sophear has a wife and they seem to have a good relationship together, like a happy family.”
NPMEC deputy director-general Phal Samorn said that Marina and Sophear had worked closely together in the same office, which may have upset Ratha.
“When he saw [them working together], he got jealous and that caused him, through anger, to kill,” Samorn said.
Samorn also noted Ratha had turned his attention to Marina after a previous marriage proposal to another woman in the office was also rejected.
Another employee at the centre – which is responsible for building the peacekeeping capacity of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and training personnel in peacekeeping operations and the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance – yesterday said the shooter approached the victims separately at close range.
“Oum Sophear had just arrived at work and was unlocking the door to his office on the second floor when Sen Ratha came and shot him there,” said the source, who declined to be named and said that he did not see the incident, but had spoken to people there at the time.
“Then Sen Ratha took the elevator to the fifth floor. A woman saw him with a gun and ran out of the room but Seng Marina was still there, so he shot her and then shot himself.”
Reached yesterday, Marina’s father said he was shocked by the news and knew nothing about Ratha’s advances on his daughter.
“She never mentioned anything related to love or anyone interested in her,” he said.
“Her personality is such that she’s not interested in love; she was just focused on her study. She had recently graduated with her master’s degree in management.”
Distraught, he hung up without providing his name.
Hy, the military police spokesman, said that officers are continuing to investigate the case.