The National Committee Against Torture has requested the National Police to launch an investigation into the death of a man believed to have been tortured during questioning at the Sangke district police station in Battambang province.
Family and relatives of the man, Pich Theareth, a 31-year-old resident of Bos Po village in Sangke district’s O’Dambang I commune, have also urged the provincial authorities and specialised police to hold accountable those who used violence to extract his confession.
On April 3, Theareth was arrested by district police a few hours after his wife had died of electrocution. Villagers and relatives of the woman suspected that she was killed by Theareth in a jealous rage.
But a few hours after the arrest, Theareth died. Police said his death was caused by a heart attack resulting from a drug overdose, but relatives suspected Theareth had been tortured.
An examination of the corpse found the body covered in injuries. His relatives then filed a complaint asking specialised police to investigate the case.
Theareth’s older sister Pich Lina told The Post on June 27 that according to results of an investigation by the national anti-torture committee on June 16, her brother’s death was caused by excessive torture as suspected by her and the family.
“My brother was just a suspect, not a culprit. This torture to elicit a confession was illegal. So I would like the police to find justice for my brother,” she said.
Lina added that when her brother was handcuffed, he had worn full-length black clothes and had no wounds. But after police said her brother had died, his body had severe wounds.
The committee report dated June 16 and obtained by The Post on June 27 stated that Theareth died on the way to the Battambang provincial police headquarters on June 3, 2021.
It said committee officials had interviewed eight sources including provincial and Sangke district police officials, O’Dambang I commune police chief, relatives and witnesses of the dead, Bos Po village deputy chief, autopsy committee, rights group Adhoc representative and the provincial court deputy prosecutor.
“The suspect may have been tortured while in the custody of Sangke district police custody as the suspect’s behaviour was disturbing the police,” the report concluded.
The committee requested the National Police to further investigate the case to seek the truth so that alleged torturers will be held accountable before the law if excessive force was used to get a confession.
Sangke district police chief Sun Sovan told The Post that he had never ordered his officers to torture any suspect to elicit a confession. He said the conclusion that the suspect had died of a heart attack from a drug overdose was actually made by forensic doctors.
“However, as a leader, I must take responsibility if the National Anti-Torture Committee or inspectors of the National Police find the suspect’s death was caused by torture,” he said.
Adhoc provincial coordinator Yin Mengly told The Post that although the anti-torture committee’s preliminary result was still vague, it showed a sign reflecting “irregularities of systemic lies about case files built by local authorities”.
“When there is misconduct or something illegal, people got hurt and angry with the government,” he said.
He hoped the top leadership would take legal action to bring torturers to justice.
Reached for further comment on June 28, anti- torture committee head Nuth Sa An referred a reporter to the report.
“We have investigated and the result is like what we have stated in the press release. We did not accuse anyone, but we want the National Police to continue investigation and release their finding accordingly,” Sa An said.