The families of three police officers who allegedly beat two men in Kandal province—with one dying from his injuries—tried and failed to pay the men’s families to drop their legal complaint against the officers this week, the men’s relatives said on Wednesday.
Khuon Sreymom, the widow of Chamroeun Seyha, who died after the beating, said the parents and relatives of three Sa’ang district police officers—Chhay Sina, Pheakdey Vitou and Kheang Song Theng—met with her and her relatives in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district on Tuesday to negotiate a deal.
“The parents and relatives of the three police officers told me that they will pay $20,000 and asked me and my brother to withdraw the complaint from the court,” Ms. Sreymom said.
She said she declined the relatives’ offer because the amount was not high enough.
“If they agree to pay me and my brother $65,000, we will agree to withdraw the complaint from the court,” Ms. Sreymom said, adding that no agreement was reached before she and her relatives returned home to Kompong Speu province on Tuesday.
With a family to feed, Ms. Sreymom said she could not afford to wait for potential compensation to be ordered by the courts.
“I agreed to negotiate with the three police officers because I think that it just involves civil compensation,” she said, explaining that she hoped the police officers would be brought to justice regardless.
Her husband died on October 22, the day after he and her brother, Tith Leap, were released from the Sa’ang district police station, where Mr. Leap says they were severely beaten by police officers while in custody and on the street following a traffic dispute with Mr. Sina.
The Kandal Provincial Court deputy prosecutor handling the case said on Wednesday that an out-of-court settlement between the families of the police officers and the beaten men would not affect the ongoing court investigation into Mr. Sina, Mr. Vitou and Mr. Song Theng.
“They can withdraw the civil complaint, which is involved with civil compensation, but the criminal action is still ongoing,” said Sam Rithyveasna, the deputy prosecutor leading the investigation into the beating, in which the officers are official suspects.
He added, as court officials have repeated in recent weeks, that he would issue a warrant ordering the officers to appear in court for questioning if they did not answer a previous summons by the end of this week.
Sa’ang district police chief Seng Socheat said the three officers were at large, having failed to show up for work since October 22.
“I heard from villagers that the families of the three police officers have contacted the families of the victims,” Mr. Socheat said of the meeting to discuss compensation, adding that he was not aware of their whereabouts.
None of the relatives of the police officers could be contacted on Wednesday. A lawyer for the officers, Mak Bunna, declined to say why his clients were seeking a settlement if the criminal case would still move forward.
“The negotiations depend on my clients and their family,” he said. “I’m just a lawyer to defend their rights. When the court invites me, I will go.”
sovuthy@cambodiadaily.com
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