In a fit of rage spurred by rejection and jealousy, a senior official in the military’s international peacekeeping force fatally shot two fellow employees at the unit’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Thursday before taking his own life, according to officials.
Sem Rotha, 32, a colonel and chief of security guards for the Cambodian National Center for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC), entered the group’s office building in Tuol Kok district’s Boeng Kak I commune in the morning with his government-issued pistol and immediately headed for the second floor, according to the center’s deputy director, Phal Samorn.
An ambulance arrives at the Cambodian National Center for Peacekeeping Forces headquarters in Phnom Penh on Thursday morning. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)Sem Rotha was searching for Um Sophea, 35, a major general and director of the human resources department, who he had a vendetta against for having a “close relationship” with a woman he was in love with, Mr. Samorn said.
“At about 8:40 a.m., Mr. Rotha went to shoot Major General Sophea in his office,” he said. “Then he ran to the fifth floor to find Marina and shoot her.”
Seng Marina, 37, a first colonel, was critically injured, he said, before Sem Rotha fired “another shot at his own head.”
About 20 military police arrived at the office about 9 a.m. to investigate the scene of the crime, Mr. Samorn said. Neither military police officials nor Mr. Samorn could provide details of the victims’ injuries.
Phnom Penh military police commander Roth Sreang confirmed the morning’s events, but said the motive remained unclear.
“We have no idea why he killed himself,” he said of Sem Rotha. “We are not considering it a revenge case because we have not finished our investigation.”
Seng Marina was sent to the nearby Preah Kossamak Hospital, he added, but succumbed to her injuries at about 10 a.m.
According to Mr. Samorn, the attack was the result of a pair of rejections that deeply angered the shooter.
Military police guard the entrance to the Cambodian National Center for Peacekeeping Forces headquarters in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)Sem Rotha had recently proposed to NPMEC spokeswoman, Kosal Malinda, who declined to marry him. Shortly after, he said, the colonel asked Seng Marina to marry him, but was once again rejected “because she did not need a new husband after having been divorced.”
“Um Sophea had a close relationship with Malinda, who Rotha couldn’t get to marry him,” he said. “It made Rotha angry until he decided to kill Major General Sophea.”
Mr. Samorn said if it was not for the “coincidence that Malinda did not come to work today,” she too might have been killed.
Reached earlier in the day, Ms. Malinda said she did not have information about the incident, as she was “not in the office today.” She could not be reached again for comment.
With small white flowers coating the office floor at the NPMEC headquarters, and monks from a nearby pagoda pacing around, splashing water and praying for blessings to chase away bad spirits brought by the murders, Mr. Samorn spoke of the shock of the day.
“The major general was gentle and honest,” he said of Um Sophea. “I treated him like a son. Rotha—he was not a bad person, either.”
All three of their bodies had been delivered to their hometowns in the early afternoon, he said, where funeral processions were being arranged.
“This problem should not have been the result of a love affair,” Mr. Samorn said. “We regret our subordinates’ death.”
odom@cambodiadaily.com, retka@cambodiadaily.com
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