Capital police yesterday revealed the identities of five men who had allegedly been posing as Flying Tigers – an elite Ministry of Interior rapid-response unit – and extorting money from victims who believed they were in danger of being jailed.
The men were arrested separately around Phnom Penh late last week after the municipal police received reports – including two formal complaints filed in December near Tuol Sangke commune – that officials were demanding money from travellers at night.
“These suspects were active armed robbers.… They wore police uniforms, and [carried] guns, electric batons, [radio phones] and handcuffs,” said Lieutenant Colonel Eng Sophea, chief of the Municipal Serious Criminal Police Unit.
The suspects were identified as security guards Khuon Thavarith, 23, and Rith Ratha, 29, and the unemployed 39-year-old Seng Vimol, aka Chea, 32-year-old Pen Leakvuthynea, aka Mab, and Khat Rith, 34.
Sophea said that while the fake police officers routinely accepted cash and jewellery on the spot, they were also known to coerce victims into selling their motorbikes and mobile phones for cash at nearby pawn shops.
He added that the five men had all confessed during questioning, admitting to at least 10 other robberies between 2013 and 2015.
“Their actions caused public misunderstanding and resentment of the national police’s reputation, honour and work,” Sophea said.
Major Sok Darith, the municipal Serious Crime Unit’s deputy chief, said that the five suspects were sent to municipal court for questioning yesterday afternoon and charged for “stealing in aggravating circumstances, using weapons without permission, and impersonating competent police”. If found guilty, they face 7 to 15 years in prison.
The five suspects could not be reached for comment.