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Off-duty cop ‘on drugs’ wounded in shootout with capital police

A view of Street 19 where a Phnom Penh penal police officer with an alleged drug problem shot a commune police chief who was responding to a call for help from the man’s family on Friday.
A view of Street 19 where a Phnom Penh penal police officer with an alleged drug problem shot a commune police chief who was responding to a call for help from the man’s family on Friday. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

Off-duty cop ‘on drugs’ wounded in shootout with capital police

An off duty police officer with what family said was a long history of drug abuse was shot three times by police on Friday night in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district, after first allegedly shooting a commune police chief in the chest.

Thirty-year-old Sin Sereysothea Thirith, of the Phnom Penh Municipal Penal Police, had taken drugs on Friday night and was in a frenzied state when the incident occurred, according to his father, 62-year-old Sin Nheng.

“I told him many times to calm down, but he did not, so I called the commune police,” he said.

A commune police officer who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the press said that Wat Phnom commune police chief Un Sam Ath and another officer responded to the call that evening “but they did not bring their guns with them”.

When the police arrived about 9pm, they asked Thirith to open the door. When he refused, they forced the door open, Nheng continued.

“My son was afraid of arrest, so he started shooting at the commune police,” he said, pointing out the location in front of his shop on Street 19 where Sam Ath was shot on the left side of the chest.

“He was on drugs; he used drugs many years. I told him to quit, but he did not,” Thirth’s father said. District police chief Hout Chanyaran said that after Thirith shot Sam Ath, commune police arriving on the scene exchanged fire.

“Commune police fired back and injured the perpetrator,” he said.

Thirith then took off running before he was cornered by military and local police forces in Spien Neak Garden, adjacent to Freedom Park, where he was ordered to drop his weapon.

“The military police and police had asked him to drop his gun but he did not drop it, therefore they shot him,” the same commune police officer told the Post.

Thirith sustained one bullet wound to the left shoulder, one to his right leg and one to his right buttock, his father said, adding that he is currently recovering at Calmette Hospital.

The bullet that hit Ath has been removed and he is expected to recover.

Sok Khemarin, director of the Interior Ministry’s penal police department, said Thirith’s conduct does not in any way reflect on the department as a whole.

“This is an individual issue and he has to bear responsibility for his actions and it has nothing to do with the unit,” he said, before referring further questions to Phnom Penh Municipal Police officials, who could not be reached for comment.

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