The prime suspect in the shooting death last week of a senior Phnom Penh municipal police officer has reportedly fled into the forests of Mondulkiri province where authorities are in pursuit.

Responding to social media claims that the alleged shooter was one of their elite soldiers, the military’s Special Forces Command (SFC) has denied that any of its members were involved in the December 29 incident stemming from a car accident in the capital’s Po Sen Chey district.

The denial came after an online news story reported Facebook users claiming to identify the assailant as 38 year-old Ear Naren, also called Rin Phan, describing him as a general in the SFC.

A special letter to The Post on behalf of the senior leadership of the SFC, dated January 5, unequivocally denied that the suspect in question was a member of their ranks.

“We strongly dispute any Facebook posts which continue to fabricate and spread disinformation asserting that the perpetrator has been a SFC soldier holding a rank of Brigadier General.

“These claims affect the reputation of our organisation. Therefore, we urge the owners of those Facebook accounts to correct what has been published as we wait for the authorities to arrest the perpetrators and punish them according to the law,” the letter said.

“If there remain any Facebook accounts sharing disinformation without citations of specific sources – which detrimentally affect our reputation – the SFC will file complaints with the relevant ministries, including inquiring with authorities in the information technology sector to determine the owners of such accounts for prosecution under the law,” it added.

SFC chief Chap Pheakdey said on January 6 that he had no further comment beyond the official statements which had already been issued.

Mondulkiri provincial police chief Lor Sokha said on January 6 that he was leading several police units to apprehend the suspect who was believed to be hiding in Koh Nhek district.

“Right now, I am deep in the forest, leading police forces to arrest the murderer,” he said.

In connection with the case, police arrested a 24-year-old Cambodian man named Ke Chanmean on January 4. He was allegedly the driver of a Lexus crossover carrying the shooter when the skirmish occurred.

Reth Sineth, deputy chief of the municipal police’s minor crime bureau, died of gunshot injuries sustained after a verbal dispute arising from the car accident.

In Facebook posts dated January 5 and 6, a user named “Vannak Thanin” accuses Naren of being the perpetrator, further identifying him as a former commando living in Village 16 of Phsar Kandal I commune in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district.

The user also wrote that in early 2003, Naren and accomplices shot and killed one victim, Om Rath Sady, an adviser to the late Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and stole a mobile phone near the Kab Ko market in the capital’s Tonle Bassac commune. Naren and his accomplices were sentenced to prison, and he was released in 2018, the posts alleged.