ONE of the most powerful military figures on the
Mekong was stripped of his rank and privileges last
Lt Col Sat Soeun was ordered to take
"temporary" leave from duty Oct 24, said
government spokesman Khieu Kannarith.
Soeun, also known as Soeun Phandey, was accused and
acquitted of murdering Cambodian journalist Chan Dara in
late 1994. He has a reputation of being heavily involved
in illegal logging and had enjoyed high protection.
Last Saturday he attended a Kathen Buddhist ceremony
hosted by Hun Neng, provincial governor and elder brother
of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen. Later he was seen
laughing with friends outside a dancing restaurant.
However some time after that military police entered
his house and seized all 200 of his guns.
"He hasn't been arrested, but relieved of his
military duties. There are no charges pending," said
General Prum Din, commander of a special zone in and
around Phnom Penh called 'Military Region Zero'.
"The reason he was withdrawn was for dereliction of
duty. He was engaged in illegal activities involving wood
and rubber," he said.
Soeun was unavailable for comment on any of his
The news has shocked local residents. "Soeun
Phandey has ruled the Mekong from Kratie to Neak Leung
for five years. The river is a 'Texas place' and he is
the toughest man around. His presence is so intense that
he keeps the little-bad people under control," said
one of his neighbors fondly.
He has a fearsome reputation of violence, but also of
generosity and loyalty. Standing only about 160 cm tall,
he is tattooed from the ears down and wears amulets said
to be priceless for its power. "He eats glass and
can see everything around him - three-hundred sixty
degrees," swore an acquaintance who declined to be
named. "With weaker magic, bullets go around people.
With him the guns jam."
His recently-completed villa in Kampong Cham sports
meticulously-manicured gardens, artificial waterfalls and
two tigers from Rattanakiri. He has two 1998-model cars -
a 500 series Mercedes and a Lexus Land Cruiser - and a
200-horsepower speedboat that purportedly reaches Phnom
Penh in less than 50 minutes.
He exhibits fierce loyalty to the second prime
minister, generally wearing a Hun Sen lapel pin and
always wearing a massive five-damleng gold bracelet
engraved with "7 January 1979-Hun Sen".
Soeun allegedly amassed much of his fortune protecting
log rafts down the Mekong. One Western military attachÈ
noted: "If they can go after him, they can go after