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Government facing scrutiny after official gets light punishment for firing gun

Interior Ministry Secretary of State Pol Lim’s son, Lim Chamnan. Fresh News
Interior Ministry Secretary of State Pol Lim’s son, Lim Chamnan. Fresh News

Government facing scrutiny after official gets light punishment for firing gun

Authorities are facing public backlash over the light punishment Lim Chamnan – son of Interior Ministry Secretary of State Pol Lim – is facing after being caught on video firing a gun on a busy street while fleeing a car accident on Saturday.

Chamnan, deputy chief of Kandal’s Provincial Traffic Department, was temporarily suspended from his post and had his gun confiscated. He received a warning letter from National Police Chief Neth Savoeun but was not charged for shooting his weapon in public.

The mild punishment slapped on Chamnan has sparked public criticism.

Soeng Chan, 32, a tuk-tuk driver, said he felt the police’s decision was “not fair and just”.

“If the police were complying with the law, he would be arrested and put in jail. But because they consider his father” he is receiving light punishment, he said.

Another man, who asked to remain anonymous, compared the situation to the case of three members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Personal Bodyguard Unit who were convicted for assaulting two opposition lawmakers, only to be promoted after serving just 12 months of a four-year sentence.

“It is like beating the lawmakers, and they confessed that they beat them [but] after that they were promoted . . . It is the same case; he came to confess and received little administrative punishment, and he will be promoted,” he said, adding that “the poor would never attain justice no matter how hard we protest”.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A screenshot of a video in which a police official can be seen attempting to flee the scene of an accident, before firing his gun when the vehicle attempted to pursue him in Phnom Penh last week. Fresh News

Some have also taken the criticism to social media. A Facebook user who goes by the name Hour Darcy wrote on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook page yesterday asking: “Where is the law?”

Another user, Seav Leng, posted: “The culture of exception and understanding for wealthy and high-ranking officer families is still a concerning issue in the country. If law enforcement is not reinforced equally, what is the rule of law?”

Kandal Police Chief Eav Chamroeun did not explain yesterday why Chamnan was receiving a light administrative punishment for his offence, instead citing law that appeared to show that the officer’s actions warranted a stronger rebuke.

“For the use of weapons stated in National Police Regulations No006, in Article 8, Point 2.3, demotion of rank or removal from post will be enforced for a police officer who shoots a weapon without an order or a legitimate reason,” he said. The regulations say sanctions are at the discretion of superiors.

Despite the regulations, Chamnan would only be fired from his job if he commits the offence “a second time”, Chamrouen said.

“We have already requested that the general write a warning letter . . . When there is a second time, he will be fired.”

According to Affiliated Network for Social Accountability Executive Director San Chey, the exemption from a criminal charge is not justified.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said that under the arms control law, even people authorised to own a gun are liable to criminal prosecution if they fire their weapon without a valid reason.

“If you fire a gun without reason, it is illegal shooting and a crime. You would get jail time and a fine,” he said.

The director of the Public Order Department at the Interior Ministry, Run Roth Veasna, maintained yesterday that the ministry “implements the law on all people including powerful sons and poor sons”.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said “it is up to the relevant authorities whether to remove or suspend” Chamnan from his post, adding that they “do not know what the incident was like [because] they only saw through the video”.

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