Police said they were closing in yesterday on a pair of alleged armed robbers wanted in Kampong Speu province for the murder of a civil servant on Saturday morning during an attempted heist at a jewellery shop.
The robbery is the latest in a spate of armed raids on businesses across the country that prompted Interior Minister Sar Kheng to order officials to put an end to the crime wave or be sacked after Prime Minister Hun Sen cautioned last week against pardoning convicts jailed for violent crimes.
Som Bora, the deputy police chief in Kampong Speu, said soldiers, police and military police had surrounded a wood in Phnom Sruoch district where they believed the perpetrators of Saturday’s robbery were holed up.
“So far we have not arrested them yet, but we did find their motorbike,” he said yesterday. “We expect that based on their identities and our hard work we will arrest them soon.”
In Thoeun, a clerk who worked for the Maha Saing commune authorities, was fatally shot with an AK-47 assault rifle during the robbery of his nephew’s gold shop at a local market. He died on the way to the provincial hospital.
“The armed robbers thought he was an undercover police officer coming to intervene” when Thoeun arrived at the store, owned by his nephew, Phan Dany, said Major Say Bunthun, the district police chief.
“They shot him with an AK rifle; one bullet to the right of the chest, causing him serious injuries.”
The suspects managed to grab 750 grams of platinum – worth more than $20,000 – before they made their getaway.
The incident was the second such armed robbery in the province this month, and follows other similar robberies in Phnom Penh, Pursat, Battambang and Kandal provinces.
Four suspects, three men and one woman, have so far been arrested over the robbery of a jewellery store in Battambang province on December 12, the provincial deputy police chief, Brigidier General Cheth Vanny, said yesterday.
No suspects have yet been arrested for the armed robberies in Kandal or Pursat, which happened on the same day as the Battambang raid.
However, Kandal provincial police chief Eav Chamroeun maintained yesterday that “police are working hard to . . . bring [the suspects] to justice”.
General Kheng Tito, Pursat military police commander, said the identities of the suspects were known to the authorities and their arrests are imminent.
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for local rights group Licadho, said that armed robberies had spiked this year, a trend he said was linked to a rise in drug use, high unemployment rates and lax law enforcement.