Sao Sokha, the commander of the National Military Police, on Wednesday warned of legal action against the Preah Sihanouk provincial unit if it was found to have used excessive force against villagers during clashes in Prey Nop district last Thursday.
After a man was seriously injured upon being shot in the protest, a video clip appeared on Facebook purportedly showing one provincial military police officer beating a protester with an AK-47 assault rifle and another stepping on someone’s head while on the ground with his hands tied behind his back.
Sokha, who is a deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, told The Post on Wednesday that, after two days of its formation, the technical team had yet to conclude its investigations.
However, he said if it was found that Preah Sihanouk provincial military police officials had used excessive force, then they would be punished according to the law.
“The footage [appears to] show the violation of the rights of citizens by officers wearing military police uniforms while enforcing the law. This leads our investigation to [discover] how many people caused this and whether they took such action themselves or were ordered to do so.”
He could not confirm when the investigation would end, but said it would not be prolonged and there would be a press conference upon its conclusion to show transparency.
The six-member action committee was set up on Monday under the leadership of Sao Chan Krisna, the chief of the military police’s Inspection Bureau, to carry out an investigation into the incident.
Orn Ien, 58, the mother of Pov Saroth, the shooting victim, told The Post that her son was recovering in hospital but would need treatment for months.
Ien said her family are from Battambang province but her son was working in construction for three months in Preah Sihanouk.
She said her son told her he did not participate in the protest but was riding his motorbike when he was caught up in the incident when villagers ran away en masse. She said her son did not attempt to flee as he was not involved.
According to a report by Yun Min, the governor of Preah Sihanouk province, which was submitted to Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, the military police team had been instructed by the provincial committee before the implementation of the Supreme Court ruling that shooting was against the rules of engagement.
He said police may have shot in the air as a warning but shooting a protester would not have been ordered by anyone.
Soeung Sen Karuna, a spokesman and human rights monitor with rights group Adhoc said: “If the committee is really willing, it will take action against the lower authorities.
“We will follow up further as to what action they will take and whether they take action in accordance with the law. We will wait and see as to whether the committee is accurate or not.”