Police yesterday questioned three men suspected of a rash of brazen armed gold and platinum robberies that netted nearly 5 kilograms of precious metals in Pursat province on Saturday, the second large-scale gold heist in the Kingdom this month, police said.
According to provincial serious crimes police chief Seung Sopheak, the suspects – whom he declined to name – were picked up on Saturday night in a village about 2 kilometers from the scene of the robberies after being surrounded by police, but had yet to confess.
“We have apprehended three people, but they have yet to say anything while the expert police are questioning them,” he said.
Deputy district police chief Captain Chet Sambath said that three gold stalls were robbed of a combined 4.88 kilograms of gold and platinum, a haul worth more than $180,000 at current market rates.
Three of the thieves smashed gold display cases and grabbed the loot, while two others held shop staff at gunpoint, he added.
The men then fled the scene, but were shortly pursued by police.
The father of one of the shop owners, who was present for the heist, and who asked to only be identified as Hour, said that on the day of the robbery, his son and a nephew were conducting business as usual when six or seven people suddenly appeared carrying an AK-47, a pistol and an axe.
Hour said that shop staff struggled with the assailants, who had apparently timed the robbery to coincide with the lunch break of the police officer stationed at the market.
“One of the thieves pointed a gun at me, but I fought back, and another [person] also fought back, but they did not fire, because it would be heard by police. They just collected the gold, and I threw an axe at them, but it missed,” he said. “We lost more than 70 damleung [about 2.63 kilograms of gold], but we were not hurt.”
Sambath said yesterday that there were typically two officers stationed at the market, but that one had been absent on the day of the robbery.
Earlier this month, a group of six men wielding four AK-47 assault rifles stormed a Kampong Thom market in broad daylight, stealing some $250,000 of gold, platinum and cash from vendors.