Notorious former military officer Sath Soeun – better known as Soeun Phendey, or “Master of the Earth” – was arrested in Ratanakkiri’s Banlung town on Saturday for allegedly firing more than a dozen shots after being told his preferred karaoke hostess was busy with another client, military police said yesterday.
Provincial military police commander Kim Raksmey said Soeun, 51, who has a history of violent altercations, was currently being questioned before being sent to court.
“We have [preliminarily] charged him with using an illegal gun,” Raksmey said.
According to a military police official who asked not to be named, Soeun and his driver had gone to drink at Ponlork Meas Karaoke in Banlung. Upon learning his favourite hostess was unavailable, Soeun walked outside, fired 13 shots and drove off, only to be arrested minutes later, the official said.
The arrest follows a string of brutal incidents involving the powerful, and seemingly untouchable Soeun. In 1995 a UN report cited an incident in which he allegedly cornered a 16-year-old accused thief in the house the teen had allegedly robbed and shot him at close range in front of several police officers.
“Instead of arresting Lieutenant Colonel Sath Soeun for this obvious homicide, the police allowed him to depart,” the report said.
Soeun has been acquitted for the murder of one journalist, summonsed for questioning in the killing of a second and seen murder charges dropped after drunkenly running over a man but paying compensation. In the late 1990s he was stripped of his rank for illegal logging.