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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - False kidnapping hysteria ‘not helping anything’, police say

Villagers drag a man wrongly accused of kidnapping after he was beaten by an angry mob on Saturday in Preah Sihanouk province. Photo supplied
Villagers drag a man wrongly accused of kidnapping after he was beaten by an angry mob on Saturday in Preah Sihanouk province. Photo supplied

False kidnapping hysteria ‘not helping anything’, police say

Police officials have warned parents and villagers not to contribute to social media hysteria over false accounts of kidnappings of children for organ harvesting in the wake of two vicious mob beatings over the weekend.

The police directive comes after two separate assaults, in Preah Sihanouk and Kampong Thom provinces, where the victims were falsely accused of kidnapping children and removing their kidneys.

Phuong Puthidara, the 24-hour information official at the National Police, urged parents to continue reporting genuine cases of missing children, but said the many claims posted to Facebook were exaggerated or false. “The kidnapping case for kidney extraction . . . we have not received any information about that yet,” he said.

“Through Facebook, they said that the child was brought here and there, but it has not happened yet. Please, do not believe in Facebook so much.”

Two men are beaten up by an angry crowd over an alleged kidnapping. Photo supplied
Two men are beaten up by an angry crowd over an alleged kidnapping. Photo supplied

Preah Sihanouk Provincial Police Chief Chuon Narin yesterday debunked rumours – circulated on the Facebook page of “Pov Virakbot” – that the victim in the beating there had kidnapped any children or extracted their internal organs.

“I reject this completely and confirm the truth for the public in order to stop the confusion,” he said. “I ordered the experts and local authorities to investigate and discovered that the man who was tied up and abused . . . he is a rubbish sweeper at Veal Rinh Market and he is a drunkard, not a child kidnapper.”

Also on Saturday, in Kampong Thom, two men from Prey Veng province were severely beaten and dragged into a pond on similar accusations, according to Provincial Police Chief Ouk Kosal. Kosal said the pair were not kidnappers but were being questioned by police.

He added a man, identified as “Nay Sineng” on Facebook, had broadcast false information that the two men were Vietnamese child kidnappers and organ traffickers.

Sineng was detained and questioned, but released after issuing an apology, Kosal said.

James McCabe, of the Child Protection Unit, said “there hasn’t been a spike in kidnappings”. “If they have a concern and if a child is missing, of course they should report it to police, but this hysteria around social media is not helping anything.”

The National Police’s Puthidara said that between July 13 and 30, a total of 32 complaints had been made alleging child kidnappings. Of those, two were genuine cases. Four children of those 32 were still missing, while 16 had been found. Ten complaints had only recently been filed.

For people who suspected a child had been kidnapped, Puthidara urged them to contact police on two hotlines: 031 201 2345 or 031 601 2345.

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