An environment official in Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri’s Koh Nhek district was arrested and allegedly forced to pay a $4,000 bribe after being accused of firing a rifle while intoxicated on Sunday morning, according to a rights worker.
Ranger Huot Som, 27, was patrolling the forest on Saturday and apprehended illegal loggers, who fled but left behind an AK-47 rifle.
Instead of turning the weapon in to his superiors, Som took the weapon and drank with friends late into the night.
Som was arrested after shots were fired around 3am on Sunday, said Eang Mengly, Mondolkiri provincial investigator for Adhoc.
Mengly was alerted to the incident by Som’s mother, who claimed police exploitation and said she pleaded for her son’s release.
“After realising about the shooting, police officials asked her son in for questioning, and they just arrested him. They demanded $4,000 for [his release],” Mengly said yesterday.
Keo Sinorng, Sre Sangkum commune chief, confirmed that Som had no previous brushes with the law, and his mother begged for his release, but said he had no knowledge of money changing hands.
However, he said the gun was intentionally fired by Som three times, after learning he had been locked out of his house
Meanwhile, Kan Penh, Koh Nhek district police chief, denied the allegation outright, and said there was no reason for an arrest as the gun had in fact only been fired accidentally when it was nudged from the drunk officer’s shoulder.
“We did nothing to him,” said Penh, explaining Som voluntarily turned in the weapon in the morning.
“There was no demand for money,” he added. “We took the rifle and [thanked] him.”