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Updated: Suspect in forestry patrol killings surrenders

Suspect Keut Veha, the head of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Regiment 103, surrendered to police last night. Photo supplied/Fresh News
Suspect Keut Veha, the head of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Regiment 103, surrendered to police last night. Photo supplied/Fresh News

Updated: Suspect in forestry patrol killings surrenders

A suspect allegedly involved in the slaying on Tuesday of three forest patrollers in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary surrendered himself to authorities late on Wednesday night and was questioned by authorities on Thursday, according to officials.

So Sovan, the deputy provincial police chief, said suspect Keut Veha, the head of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Regiment 103, turned himself in at the police station Wednesday night.

“He showed up at 11pm. He came to confess to us; we did not catch him,” he said, adding that police were still searching for suspect Phal Penh, who is a police officer in charge of the O’Rolear border post.

On Tuesday evening, Military Police officer Sok Vothana, Environment Ministry ranger Theun Soknay, and Wildlife Conservation Society staffer Thol Khna were ambushed and killed while on forestry patrol.

Further details about the incident remain unclear, though National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said on Tuesday night that there had been a report earlier in the day of chainsaws being confiscated by rangers, with the head of the nearby border post sent to “check on it”. Chantharith said the border officer headed to the area with two soldiers and soon thereafter the shooting began. Calls to Chantharith have gone unanswered since Tuesday.

Both Sovan and district Police Chief Bou Bun Chheat have said a second soldier in the group besides Veha was “not involved” – though Sovan provided no further clarification as to why the individual, identified as Nguon Chea, was not a suspect. Calls to Bun Chheat went unanswered.

“The real perpetrators are only the two that are involved in this shooting,” Sovan said.

Mom Vanda, the prosecutor at the Mondulkiri Provincial Court, said no charges will be brought against Veha until the investigation is complete.

“We have not concluded this case. Tomorrow, the national committee [that was set up to investigate Tuesday’s attack] will finish the report,” he said, noting that a large amount of evidence had been collected before declining to give further details.

Sovan, however, said he was unaware of this report. Calls to his superior went unanswered, as did calls to the Mondulkiri provincial governor.

Military Police spokesman Eng Hy declined to comment, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat could not be reached.

Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap simply said “those suspected are being hunted”, and that the case was being handled by competent authorities.

Read more: Family and friends struggle to come to terms with sudden death of forestry patrollers

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