A human rights group fears for the safety of a missing Kampong Thom farmer and have
demanded an explanation from military police who said he escaped custody on January
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) has questioned whether the 39-year-old
Eip Thien really escaped, as he was handcuffed. He has not contacted his family in
more than two weeks.
"I am afraid that something might have happened," said Danilo Caspe, investigation
director for the CCHR. "We can't get clear information from the military police.
Where is he now? If he really escaped, then they can explain to us what are the circumstances
of his escape.
"The military police said he escaped, but for us, I don't think that would be
possible because he was handcuffed when he was arrested," he said.
Kampong Thom military police are standing by their reports that Thien escaped.
Citing concerns of police brutality and Thien's current whereabouts, local human
rights groups Licadho, Adhoc and Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association are
also investigating the case.
"We can't say if the victim is killed, or if the victim is detained, or if the
victim is alive," said Ham Sunrith, a Licadho prison monitoring officer. "We're
worried about the security of the victim," said Sunrith.
A report released by the three NGOs on January 25 details their version of events
leading to Thien's arrest.
The report states that Eip Thien, 39, and his two nephews, Vang Vat, 23, and Sak
Phoeun, 21, were stopped by forestry officials while transporting wood in a buffalo-drawn
cart on January 12.
Chey Sitha, Stung district forestry chief, grabbed the reins causing the surprised
buffalo to injure Sitha's left eye with its horns.
Thien and his nephews traveled home, and Sitha called the military police and asked
them to intervene.
Five minutes later, four armed military police came to Thien's house. Thien was beaten
by police, handcuffed and taken to the Stung district military police headquarters.
His wife and eldest daughter were also beaten by police as they attempted to help
Thien's wife, Eip Nath, 33, went to the military police headquarters to find her
husband, but she wasn't permitted past the gates. The military police told her that
her husband had escaped from custody.
On January 13, military police and a Kampong Thom court official seized the cart
and the wood from Nath. The court official questioned Thien's two nephews, arrested
them, and detained them for two nights at Kampong Thom's provincial court.
The court later released the nephews without charge, and ordered Kul Chhoeun, Stung
district military police chief, to take them back to their commune. Chhoeun demanded
the nephews pay him $100 each to take them home.
On January 15, Thou Lik, deputy governor of Stung district, returned to the family
the $200 taken by Chhoeun. He gave them $300 to cover the cost of the wood and said
he would return the cart. He also asked the family not to complain to the courts.
Chhoeun disputed that Sitha's injuries were caused by the buffalo and claimed instead
that Thien attacked Sitha.
Chhoeun denied officers used excessive force when arresting Thien. At this point
in the interview, Chhoeun said he was out of cell phone coverage and the phone went
dead. Repeated calls went unanswered.
Sitha also said that his injuries were not caused by the buffalo. He said Thien attacked
him with a stick, so he has filed a complaint to the court.
"I am very upset that the police arrested the offender and let the offender
escape," said Sitha.
Hing Ain, second deputy chief of Kampong Chen Cheung commune, said Thien's wife was
very concerned about her husband. Ain visited her yesterday. She still had no idea
of her husband's whereabouts.
"It's difficult to find," said Caspe, "but we'll try our best to get
some more information so we can confirm what really happened to the victim."