THREE men who were shot during an altercation with police in Kampong Thom’s Santuk district last week plan to meet with workers from the rights group Adhoc today to discuss the possibility of filing a criminal complaint – despite the fact that they remain in hiding and refuse to go back to Kampong Thom themselves.
On the afternoon of March 7, police opened fire on a group of 40 villagers who had returned to a section of land in Kraya commune from which 1,700 families were evicted last December. Local authorities have said the police were acting in self-defence after being provoked by the villagers.
Police on Wednesday filed a criminal complaint against eight villagers for their alleged involvement in the altercation, though the three men who suffered bullet wounds were not among those listed. Nevertheless, all three – 59-year-old Chhum Chhorn, 37-year-old Tuot Chanka and his younger brother, 35-year-old Tuot Veasna – have fled Kampong Thom province for fear they will be arrested.
Luon Bunthy, who helped bring the three men to hospital after the shooting, said Sunday that they planned to file a criminal complaint of their own soon, adding that he and other villagers would join them.
“We are afraid to go back to Kampong Thom because they have threatened to arrest us, so we are not sure that we can file a complaint against police who shot our villagers or not. But we really want to file a complaint against them, because the shooting was a sign of anarchy,” Luon Bunthy said.
Chhum Chhorn, who, like the other two injured men, has relocated to Kampong Cham province, said, “If we go back to Kampong Thom they will arrest us, so tomorrow we will talk with the provincial Adhoc officials here to see what we can do to file a complaint against them.”
Officials in Kampong Thom have said they have no intention of seeking the arrest of the injured men, a statement that Santuk district governor Pich Sophea reiterated on Sunday.
Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for Adhoc, which filed its own complaint last week, said the rights group had already prepared the documents for the complaint to be filed on behalf of the injured men.
He compared the Kraya case to an ongoing land row in Siem Reap province, adding that he hoped the Kraya case would be handled differently.
On March 22 of last year, officers opened fire on a group of villagers from Chi Kraeng commune who refused to leave land that Siem Reap governor Sou Phirin had ruled belonged to neighbouring Anlong Samnor commune. Nine villagers are currently behind bars because of their alleged involvement in the incident, but no police have been arrested or charged.