Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Police failed to respond to report saying murder suspect was ‘dangerous’: family

Police failed to respond to report saying murder suspect was ‘dangerous’: family

Family members of a 13-year-old who was killed in broad daylight hold a funeral ceremony yesterday in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar commune.
Family members of a 13-year-old who was killed in broad daylight hold a funeral ceremony yesterday in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar commune. Pha Lina

Police failed to respond to report saying murder suspect was ‘dangerous’: family

The wife of a suspect charged for the murder of a 13-year-old boy – whose drowning in broad daylight was caught on camera by onlookers – said she called police just hours before the Monday murder because her husband was behaving “dangerously”, but that officers declined to take action.

Ny Kunthea, 32, yesterday said she called a police officer at about 1:30pm on Monday to ask officials to take Var Ratha, 33, to a drug rehabilitation centre because she feared he was using drugs.

“He used to take drugs. When he behaved strangely like this, I thought he had a drug problem [again], and called the police to take him to the drug rehabilitation centre. But the policeman replied that they couldn’t come because of a lack of police officials,” she said.

The recipient of her call, an officer who identified himself as Dora but refused to give his full name, confirmed yesterday he had spoken to Kunthea. He said he told her he was not able to help because he worked on immigration issues, not drug issues.

Just two hours after the phone call, Ratha is alleged to have beaten his victim unconscious as the boy was herding cows in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar commune, then drowned him in a shallow pool in a field as onlookers watched. Under questioning by police, the suspect said the boy had been shooting spitballs at him with a toy gun, and that he was possessed by “spirits” and could not control his rage.

“If they had come to take him in, maybe he would have not killed the boy,” Kunthea said.

Police on Tuesday said a urine test did not come up positive for any illicit substances.

Speaking at the boy’s funeral yesterday, the suspect’s sister-in-law, Ny Kunthor, said Ratha told the family on the morning of the murder that he was possessed by evil spirits.

“He said to us: ‘You should stay away from me, because I don’t know who they are, those [spirits] who came into my body,’ and then walked out of the house,” she said.

Suspect Var Ratha, 33, is questioned after his arrest in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar commune.
Suspect Var Ratha, 33, is questioned after his arrest in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar commune. Photo supplied

Other family members of the suspect told The Post similar stories, saying Ratha had acted “strange” just hours before the murder.

The police officer, Dora, said that after he spoke to Kunthea, he called “some friends”, who said they would come to help. But they did not intervene in time, Dora said, because a car was not available.

Lorn Vibol, the 28-year-old brother of the victim, said he was in disbelief when he heard about the murder.

“My mother told my brother to look after the cows at the field. I almost didn’t believe when the other villagers came and told us that my brother was killed,” he said. “He just left from home only 20 minutes before. It happened so fast.”

The victim’s mother, Van Lao, said Ratha had previously “never made a problem” in the village. “He is gentle . . . He always smiles at the villagers,” she said.

Lao said an unidentified woman called her on Monday afternoon, saying she had seen the murder but was too afraid to intervene. Still, Lao said she was upset with bystanders who had filmed the incident, but took no action beyond shouting at Ratha.

“They saw the scene, but why did they not stop it? Why did they not help my boy? Why did they need to take the video?” she asked.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Y Rin said yesterday that the suspect had been charged with murder under aggravating circumstances. He was sent to Prey Sar prison to await trial.

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