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Cop vs cops in cockfight standoff

Police officials confiscate motorbikes during an illegal cockfighting crackdown in Kampong Speu province last week. Photo supplied
Police officials confiscate motorbikes during an illegal cockfighting crackdown in Kampong Speu province last week. Photo supplied

Cop vs cops in cockfight standoff

A police captain from the capital faces arrest today for his role in leading a standoff against Kampong Speu provincial police who attempted to raid a cockfight he was allegedly running only to be humiliated and ultimately forced to fire warning shots to make good their exit.

Kampong Speu provincial police chief Sam Samuon yesterday said the officer, captain Kheng Sokha of the Phnom Penh municipal police’s economic crime unit, had been transferred for “education” and would today be one of five people named in an arrest warrant as ringleaders of the illegal matches in Kong Pisei district’s Veal commune.

According to Samuon, Sokha, who can be heard berating local officials in a video of the incident posted on social media, confronted a raid by commune and district police officers on January 24 with “arrogance” and superior numbers.

Samuon said the 20-odd officers leading the operation were intimidated into the ring, where they were surrounded by about 50 spectators, at which point one officer, feeling threatened, fired into the air.

“They had started yelling threateningly at us, because his side had many people, between 50 and 60 people including gamblers,” Samuon said.

“There were five leaders who rounded up our police and made them sit down in the cockfighting arena. Kheng Sokha tried to order us around but we did not follow their orders. We shot two times into the sky and they backed off. [Sokha] then shouted at us that he could fire a full magazine and that his AK was in the trunk.”

To avoid further problems, Samuon said the officers decided not to make arrests but seized some items.

“There would be big problem if we continue to confront them,” he said.

However he vowed that the group “would not get away with it”, adding a local villager had told police the cockfighting ring had been operating for about a week.

In a video posted on social media, Sokha can be heard challenging local officers. He says: “Do you know who this place belongs to?” He then says the “leader” would “make a call” while urging the group to remember “we are colleagues”.

“Before you come down here, you should have asked me,” he says.

However, a local officer, in response, does not yield.

“Bong, I do not know and I do not care what your name is . . . I do not know how big you are, I’m just doing my work, complying with my role,” he says, dropping the name of his district chief, Khoem Sophanra, who could not be reached yesterday.

“When you arrive [at the district police station], we can talk.”

Spokesmen for the National Police were unreachable yesterday.

However an item published on the National Police website about the operation noted a “heated argument” between the person running the ring and police, who were forced to draw their firearms.

It said the man “claimed he was a Phnom Penh penal police officer” and “knew both small and big people including the district and provincial police chief”.

It added authorities had seized two vehicles, nine motorbikes and four fighting cocks.

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