Twelve Military Police officers were detained in Kampong Thom province on August 9, pending further investigations into the death of a man during an operation against an online cockfighting ring in Baray district’s Krava commune on August 7.
Provincial Military Police commander Hang Thol told The Post on August 10 that the detention followed an emergency meeting by the national-level gendarmerie leadership over the incident.
As of August 10, no further action had been taken against the 12 officers, he noted.
According to National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy, on August 7, four suspects involved in online cockfighting gambling were arrested, including the deceased man identified as Suong Doan.
While the four were en route to the Military Police base, Doan became short of breath and complained that he was feeling unwell. Military Police Officers then performed a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) test, but Doan was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
“The National Military Police will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the facts of the incident,” Hy was quoted as saying.
On August 9, National Military Police commander General Sao Sokha ordered the arrest of the officers allegedly involved in Doan’s death.
General Sokha, who is also deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), issued the order after a social media post alleged that the Kampong Thom Military Police officers had used excessive force leading to his death.
“I have ordered a full investigation into the events in Kampong Thom, and if anyone is found to have committed a crime as alleged, they will be held accountable,” he said.
“If it is determined that the man’s death was the result of brutality by Military Police officers, all of those involved will face the law without exception,” he added.
General Sokha ordered the provincial gendarmerie chief to pay close attention in this case and to fully cooperate with the investigation into the conduct of his officers.
“We cannot allow any members of law enforcement to think that they are above the law. Officers in all provinces must be mindful of their responsibilities, especially where the use of force is concerned,” he said.
“If they are found to be at fault, they will face consequences for their actions. We will not try to educate these officers, as their training and experience mean they are aware of what force is reasonable while carrying out their duties,” he stressed.
Din Nearadey, the 25-year-old daughter of the late Doan, denied the gambling allegations. She told The Post that her father, who served as deputy chief of Rong village, went to a meeting at the commune hall on the afternoon of August 7. Afterwards, he stopped by a coffee shop where, unbeknownst to him, illegal gambling was taking place.
She said that when the officers raided the den, they arrested three suspects along with her father. The men were handcuffed and put into police vehicles en route to the gendarmerie base. Her father was very pale when he was pushed into one of the vehicles with his hands cuffed behind his back. He died shortly after.
“I beg the authorities to find justice for my father,” she pleaded.
Sun Vin, 46, the wife of the deceased, said her husband was in good health and did not suffer from any chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure. She and her family were at a loss as to what had caused the death.
Krava commune chief Chhit Thoth told The Post on August 9 that he had been told the victim died in the police car.
“The Military Police headed for the Baray district referral hospital as soon as they were aware that Doan was unwell, but he was pronounced dead on arrival. Medics performed an autopsy and determined that he had suffered a stroke which triggered a fatal heart attack. His body was handed over to the family on August 9,” he said.
Soeung Sen Karuna, spokesman for rights group ADHOC, told The Post on August 9 that he had instructed his officials to closely monitor the situation and gather information on the case to establish the cause of death, and if necessary, help find justice for the deceased.
“I respect the Military Police’s calls for calm and will await the outcome of their investigation,” he said.
He added that he was aware of cases where officers beat suspects after their arrests, and then claimed that it was part of the performance of their duties.
“The authorities, especially those in positions of power, should not overstep the mark when it comes to employing force in the course of making an arrest. Suspects should be treated respectfully, and then sent to the judicial branch for trial,” he said.