A man charging people to collect dead wood on a plot of land belonging to the Ministry of Defence in Pursat’s Phnom Kravanh district was arrested yesterday after allegedly shooting a villager in the foot during a dispute over 4,000 riel (about $1).
According to Em Run, the arresting police chief of nearby Krakor district, suspect Min Khorn demanded 3,000 riel for each of the four makeshift trailers a local villager was using to transport the wood from Santre commune.
When the villager advised that he only had money to pay 2,000 riel for each vehicle, Khorn allegedly shot the man in the foot with an AK-47.
“First he fired into the air and then into the foot of the villager,” Run said. “The bullet passed through his left foot.”
The police chief said the man was hired and armed by a soldier to man a road running through the land, and was charging villagers who collected wood there to make charcoal.
However, Ministry of Defence spokesman Chum Socheat denied that a soldier had armed the man, as it was “illegal” for the armed forces to pass weapons on to civilians.
“Soldiers cannot give guns to people,” he said, adding that he was still waiting on information about this specific case.
A district police officer, who would only speak under condition of anonymity, said the suspect had been charging villagers for “years”.
Between the police, the military, purported journalists and forestry officials, extortion of villagers collecting in the area was rampant, he said.
“I am really sick and tired of them, but we cannot do anything,” he said.
The case has been sent to the provincial court.