Cars pass by an Acleda bank branch in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
Two drug addicts took over an Acleda Bank branch in Kampong Cham province Tuesday evening, taking a number of staff hostage and initiating an hours-long, meth-fuelled standoff that is still ongoing, police and bank officials said this afternoon.
According to provincial military police commander Var Sarith, the two gunmen initially took three employees hostage around 6pm, somehow managing to keep the attack secret until one of the hostages escaped early this morning, and reported the situation to the authorities.
The attackers, he said, have refused food offered by authorities, instead issuing a demand that they be given methamphetamine – a demand to which police eventually acceded.
"We gave them ice [crystal methamphetamine], but only a small packet, and now we don't have more," said Sarith.
"We gave them food and water, but they refused to eat. They need drugs," he continued, adding that police were currently looking for more drugs in order to comply with their demands.
Inside the bank, snippets of conversation – ostensibly between the gunmen – could be overheard coming from the room in which the men and hostages were holed up, with one of the attackers saying, “If they shoot at us, we shoot back.”
As of today at 4pm, some 100 police officers were surrounding the bank, with a contingent of police en route from Phnom Penh.