Police in Battambang province’s Samlot district are searching for a former soldier who stands accused of going on a shooting spree in Ta Sanh commune’s Ou’Snguot village recently. Villagers said they feared for their lives and dare not go into the forest where the suspect is believed to be hiding.

District deputy police chief Sou Vun identified the suspect as Sok Kong, a resident of Ou’Snguot village and former member of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces who was discharged from the army in 1998.

He said that on December 6, Kong recklessly fired an AK-47 assault rifle at least 21 times in the village, frightening the locals. After the incident, the police found 21 spent bullet casings in front of the suspect’s house but he had already fled into the forest with the weapon.

The police searched the bamboo forest behind the village and managed to find his gun but could not locate him.

Commune chief Suon Socheat told The Post that the incident had frightened the village community and local residents were eager to see Kong captured and prosecuted to provide them with some peace of mind.

“On the morning of December 8, villagers reported seeing [Kong] go into the forest behind the village with a backpack and armed with a pistol and two long knives or swords. They are still unwilling to go into the forest to forage as they normally would for fear of encountering the suspect and getting stabbed or shot,” she said.

Socheat said she had told the villagers to remain calm and stay out of the forest for now while the police continue to conduct their search operations.

Chuon Chanthorn, a resident of the commune, said the suspect often got into heated arguments and disputes with others and that in the past he had threatened to shoot his family, relatives and neighbours while drunk – but nobody realised he owned an AK-47 until they saw him firing it.

“I’ve heard him insult his wife and children and threaten to shoot his neighbours, but I didn’t know that he actually had a gun. I wouldn’t have guessed that he did because he left the army long time ago. But then suddenly last night there he was opening fire with it in the middle of the road and scaring the whole village,” he said.