A man was shot dead today during a cockfighting crackdown in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district, allegedly by stray bullets fired by police.
Seak Ron, 33, was on the balcony of his third-floor apartment when police entered the ground-floor space at about 11:15am, where some 70 people had gathered to watch a cockfight.
Ron’s wife, Nob Sophanny, 27, said she heard the sound of gunshots and went outside, where she found her husband walking towards her with blood pouring from his throat.
“I was shot by someone,” he said, before collapsing, according to Sophanny.
She believes the bullets were “warning shots” fired by police to scare off gamblers. Her husband, she said, was an innocent bystander who was not gambling at the time he was shot.
“I feel so much regret,” she said, while stroking her 2-year-old son’s head. The couple also has a daughter, aged 5. “My husband is the breadwinner for our family. Now he’s gone, so who will be responsible for that?”
The venue is a popular spot for dice games and cockfighting, said Khon Rom, a man who was on the first floor of the Choam Chao commune building at the time of the shooting. He helped Sophanny take her dying husband to hospital.
“I heard the sound of many bullets, about 20 shots,” he said, adding he did not recognise the sound at first. “I stepped outside and I saw the police take out the gun [from their holsters], and then I felt scared.”
“The police were shooting randomly. I did not see him get shot. The police were not wearing their police uniforms.”
Sophanny alleged a police officer ascended the stairs but did not call an ambulance despite her pleas for help. Por Sen Chey District Police Chief Yim Saran hung up twice on reporters without explaining why the police had fired their weapons during the raid.
District police officers at Wat Por Satha, where Ron’s body was examined, declined to comment.
Nearby, Ron’s mother-in-law Doeurk Chandin wept, her head pressed against the ambulance that had carried her son-in-law’s body.
“I cannot express my feeling,” she said. Ron’s sister, Seak Sok Chan, sobbed as she spoke to journalists about her brother’s premature passing. His body will be taken to Kampong Speu province for a funeral.
Nong Sovanroth, a forensic pathologist assisting a joint investigation by the ministries of health, justice and interior into the death, said the victim had two wounds near his throat – one from a bullet that exited the body and the other a shrapnel wound.
Another bullet appeared to have grazed his right wrist, Sovanroth said. He estimated Ron died within 15 to 20 minutes of being shot.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said today that he did not have enough information about the incident to comment in detail.
“I heard about the police chief of the district and commune police cooperating together” on the cockfighting crackdown, he said.
“When we get the information, we will open the investigation.”For Ron’s widow, that investigation can’t come soon enough.
“I ask for the people who shot him to come forward,” she said. “I want justice for him.”
Updated: Monday 22 January, 6:33am