Two eyewitnesses and a weapon have emerged in the case of a legal aid NGO investigator who was shot to death allegedly by a military police officer in Kandal province on Friday, but police still differ on whether the shooting was intentional.
According to police, provincial military policeman Preab Bunsong, 36, shot and killed 32-year-old International Bridges to Justice staffer Houn Bunnith after the latter accused him of running illegal gambling activities during a Khmer New Year drinking session.
Takhmao Police Chief Sim Buth Bandith said that after the questioning of the two witnesses, there was little doubt that the shooting was intentional.
“Actually, a gun cannot trigger easily,” he said. “It is a murder.”
However, Deputy Chief Hor Sam Ol maintained that eyewitness accounts described the death as the result of a mishandled firearm.
“The victim asked the suspect to let him see his gun. The suspect took out the gun, and it was accidentally triggered and badly injured the victim in the neck,” he said, adding that Bunsong tried to rush Bunnith to a nearby clinic.
“Unfortunately, the victim died, and [Bunsong] dropped him and escaped,” he continued. “It is an unintentional killing. It happened after the victim jokingly said that the suspect was running gambling.”
Those same eyewitness accounts, said Sam Ol, led police to find the weapon hidden at Bunsong’s house.
Sam Ol added that police believe the suspect to be hiding in the home of a relative, and noted that “Bunsong did not have a good background,” but declined to elaborate.
Bunnith’s father-in-law, IBJ Country Manager Ouk Vandeth, said that he was unconvinced by Sam Ol’s version of events, and said that Bunnith may have turned up evidence of Bunsong’s wrongdoing during another investigation.
“I think it was not an accident. He had a plan,” Vandeth said of Bunsong, maintaining that Bunnith’s death was related to his knowledge of the officer’s alleged illegal gambling activities.
Additional reporting by Stuart White