A first lieutenant soldier who assaulted villagers in a land dispute in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nop district last month is under administrative punishment based on military law and awaits criminal punishment pending an investigative committee’s conclusions.
Division III deputy commander Savin Vibol said the first lieutenant, who was identified as Chan Mao and is in his 40s, was suspended inside the army barracks and is awaiting punishment under military law after he confessed to assaulting civilians.
“He was merely following orders. But his mistake was attacking civilians. I did not order him to do that. During the operation, he was standing at the back of the unit and some villagers threw rocks."
“He was hit square on the ribs. He came out from behind the unit, grabbed his gun and beat the offenders just a bit. Though, it looks like he beat them hard."
“We initially imposed administrative punishment and are awaiting orders from higher officials. He is a first lieutenant, so we cannot take action against him unless we receive orders from above,” he said.
Early in February, after clashes between authorities and villagers, provincial authorities confirmed that another provincial Military Police official was suspended and is currently under investigation.
Several video clips posted and shared on social media show a provincial soldier, allegedly Mao, using an AK-47 to beat villagers, while another official in Military Police uniform stepped on a victim who was lying on the ground with his hands tied behind his back.
The National Military Police created a committee to investigate the case on January 28 and it remains open.
Its spokesman Eng Hy told The Post that the committee’s investigation is still underway. After the investigation has concluded, the committee will hold a press conference.
On January 24, a provincial joint task force of more than 200 officers acted on a Supreme Court order to measure the land under dispute and grant it to the nine families who won the Supreme Court case in Bit Traing commune’s Koki village in Prey Nop district.
The authorities were confronted by some 300 people who claimed the land belongs to them. This led to clashes and actions such as blocking a road with burning tyres and throwing Molotov cocktails.
One villager, a construction worker, was wounded in his left shoulder when a bullet struck him. Five other villagers were briefly detained and were released later that night.