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Calls for Justice in Shooting of Phnom Penh Scrap Metal Collector

  • Pin Sisovann
  • VOA News

Vann Sophea, a trash collector, was shot by an identified driver in a Lexus car, shows his wound to VOA Khmer at his home on February 1, 2016. (Pin Sisovann/VOA Khmer)

Vann Sophea, a trash collector, was shot by an identified driver in a Lexus car, shows his wound to VOA Khmer at his home on February 1, 2016. (Pin Sisovann/VOA Khmer)

Vann Sophea, who makes a living collecting scrap metal on the city’s streets, was shot in the back on the night of Dec. 15, 2015, close to the sewage canal in Boeung Trabek district.

Civil society groups and the victim of an apparently random shooting in Phnom Penh last month have called on authorities to investigate the case and arrest the perpetrator.

Vann Sophea, who makes a living collecting scrap metal on the city’s streets, was shot in the back on the night of Dec. 15, 2015, close to the sewage canal in Boeung Trabek district.

The shooter, who ran from the scene, has not yet been identified, other than by the fact that they were driving a white Lexus SUV.

After he was shot, Sophea lost consciousness. It was the police who took him to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, where the bullet wound on his torso was operated on. But there appears to have been no investigation conducted into the case by police, who have declined to comment.

“I want the authorities to find justice for me,” Sophea told VOA Khmer. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t violate anything. I didn’t even know that I was shot.”

He added that security guards nearby would have seen what happened, and security cameras would have recorded footage that would assist an investigation.

Sophea said that he did not dare to file a complaint to the police or at court because he has very little money.

“I haven’t heard anything since the shooting,” he added.

Sophea made about 15,000 riel a day from collecting and selling scrap metal, a job he has been doing for 18 years in order to feed his family. Since the shooting, however, Sophea has been unable to lift heavy objects due to his bullet wounds.

“The doctors said that after the operation, I would not be able to do hard labor. Thus, I can’t lift anything heavy. If I do hard labor, it could put my life at risk.”

Meoung Sokkheoun, who lives next-door to Sophea, said the authorities should arrest the perpetrator as a deterrent.

“If found, the person should be tried as a warning to others,” he said. “We should all drop this shooting-spree attitude.”

Am Sam Ath, technical coordinator for local rights group Licadho, said the government was responsible for finding the perpetrator regardless of whether the victim filed a complaint.

The inaction of authorities in the case showed that a culture of impunity existed in Cambodia, he said.

‘The shooting is a homicide attempt,” Am Sam Ath added. “Once receiving the news, prosecutors and justice officials should take action seeking the perpetrator and bring the person to trial with or without a complaint filed by the victim.”

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