A border officer in Cambodia who made headlines last year for pretending to be hit by a car driven by an opposition activist is now being sought by police for shooting a colleague over the weekend, a spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Interior said Monday.
Chhean Pisith, a deputy chief of the border checkpoint with Thailand in Poipet, in western Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province, shot the checkpoint’s administration bureau chief Sem Makara in the shoulder after a dispute, Ministry of Interior spokesperson Khieu Sopheak told reporters.
“The suspect left the scene with gun,” he said, adding that Sem Makara had not been seriously wounded.
“We know that he is outside the country now and we will cooperate with our neighbors in order to bring him back.”
Khieu Sopheak said that Interior Minister Sar Kheng had fired Chhean Pisith and that the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court issued a warrant Monday to question him about the shooting incident, which occurred on the morning of April 9.
According to a statement by Sem Makara, Chhean Pisith became involved in a verbal dispute between two fellow border officers on April 7, which carried on throughout the weekend and nearly led to a physical altercation.
When Sem Makara convened a morning meeting to resolve the dispute on April 9, Chhean Pisith drew his service weapon and cocked it, threatening him.
Sem Makara left the room and sought assistance from the chief of border police, and when he returned, Chhean Pisith shot him, grazing his left shoulder, but leaving him otherwise unharmed.
Other officers disarmed Chhean Pisith, who then fled and is believed to have crossed the border into Thailand.
A report by the Cambodia Daily cited Sem Makara as saying that he never had any issues with Chhean Pisith prior to the shooting incident.
The report also cited Sim Sam Ath, chief of the Poipet border checkpoint, confirming the incident but refusing to give details, saying he had already sent a report to the immigration department.
In December, Chhean Pisith created a public stir when a video began to circulate on social media showing him falling to the ground in front of a barely moving car driven by Din Puthy, president of the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association (CIERA), a labor association that advocates for local moto-taxi drivers, cart pullers and other informal workers.
Chhean Pisith was taken away to Thailand for treatment in an ambulance wearing a neck brace and Din Puthy, who is also the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) deputy head of operations in Poipet, was charged with aggravated intentional violence.
Witnesses told reporters at the time that Din Puthy’s vehicle never touched Chhean Pisith, calling his account of the incident into question, and protesters took to the streets in late December, demanding the labor activist’s release over what they said was a “fake accident.”
CCTV footage from a Thai hotel was later found to show Chhean Pisith walking around the facility and climbing stairs with ease, and Din Puthy was released on bond in January.
Reported by Maly Leng for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.