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Compensation proves elusive

Oeurng Thy (foreground) recovers in hospital in 2009 after being shot in the back by police while handcuffed
Oeurng Thy (foreground) recovers in hospital in 2009 after being shot in the back by police while handcuffed. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Compensation proves elusive

More than five years ago, Nam Sim’s son, Oeurng Thy, was shot in the back by a member of the military police after being handcuffed over a minor scuffle. Now, three years to the day after the Appeal Court ruled that the officer owed her son some $5,000 in damages, the family has yet to see a single riel in compensation.

According to Sim, Thy went to work as a trader in Poipet in 2009. That July, as he and seven other workers were transporting goods back from the border, a group of people on motorbikes began pelting their truck with stones. The two groups fought until police intervened, arresting Thy and his companions.

“The military policeman Cheth Somnang arrested my son and his co-workers and handcuffed them,” Sim said. “They argued, and suddenly Chheth Somnang kicked my son [to the ground] and took out a gun and shot my son in the upper back.”

The bullet exited the right side of his chest.

Records drafted by the Banteay Meanchey provincial health department at the time said “Thy’s condition is bad, since the bullet ran through his right lung; he has lost a lot of blood, is tired and has chest pain, difficulty breathing and low blood pressure”. Sim said his treatment cost $15,000, and forced the family to put its land in hock.

In 2010, the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court found Somnang, the officer, guilty in the shooting. A subsequent 2011 decision from the Appeal Court ordered him to pay Thy 20 million riel (about $5,000), court records show.

But the money never came. Sim appealed to the minister of justice, Ang Vong Vathana, who in April 2013 told the Banteay Meanchey court to implement the Appeal Court’s decision, all to no result.

“Until now, I have not received any compensation, and the court told me to find Somnang by myself,” Sim said.

Huon Chundy, a program manager for the Community Legal Education Center, said yesterday that victims sometimes have to seek payment from defendants themselves.

“I can’t say [whether] there are a lot [of such cases] or not, but there are some cases like that, where the victor loses the right to ask for the compensation because of the statute of limitations,” he said, noting that the system places a burden on ordinary citizens.

“Many people do not understand the law,” he said. “It’s a complicated procedure.”

What’s more, he said, under the civil and criminal codes, a “legal entity”, in this case the provincial military police, should be held liable for paying compensation when an infraction is committed by its members during working hours.

Banteay Meanchey court clerk Sun Rattana said yesterday that Sim should file her documents so he could check them. Somnang could not be reached for comment, but his commander, Or Borin, said he is still working as an officer.

“Let the court take legal action against him,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE

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