Mondulkiri provincial police are searching for a group of suspects accused of illegally mining gold after a member was killed in a mine shaft in Chung Phlas commune’s Pu Tung village in Keo Seima district, on Monday.
The provincial police chief in charge of serious crimes unit, Hou Dara, told The Post on Thursday that a week ago, a group of villagers from Kratie province contacted a man named Doem Vanda from Pu Tung and together they illegally mined gold in the area.
At 10:30am on Monday, villagers witnessed Vanda and four other migrant workers quietly leaving the mine shaft. They investigated and found a man’s body in the shaft. Authorities were alerted immediately.
Dara said the victim was 35-year-old Soeun Linath from Chroy Banteay commune’s Khach Tob village, in Kratie province’s Prek Prasap district.
Linath’s body was examined by officials who discovered that he sustained an injury to the back of his head and fell. Authorities gave the victim’s body to his family to conduct the last rites.
“However, authorities have not yet concluded if this was a murder or work-related accident caused by the victim’s negligence. It was an illegal gold mining operation,” Dara said.
He said at this time, police are searching for Vanda and his partners to detain them for questioning.
Keo Seima district governor Nuon Saran told The Post that last year, the authorities banned all family businesses involving gold mining in Pu Tung village due to rampant unauthorised mining.
Workers lives’ were often threatened because they didn’t have the technical knowledge to carry out mining activities properly.
He said almost all the gold mines in the area were filled by provincial authorities and officials. Some of the previous owners of the mine shafts requested to demolish and fill them on their own.
“The death of a worker in the mine shaft is probably a work-related accident, not a crime,” Saran said.
He said the mine shaft where the incident occurred has not yet been filled. Authorities have erected a fence to preserve evidence pending further examination by provincial experts.