Two bandits were killed during a shoot out with anti-banditry police last Monday
night after they attempted to hold up a motorcycle taxi driver.
A police officer, who examined one of the dead bodies the following morning, said
three men dressed in military and police uniforms stopped the motor-taxi driver and
his two nightclub women passengers at gun point.
After robbing the taxi driver of his Honda C-70 motorcycle, the bandits shot into
the ground as they made their escape, wounding the man in his left foot, the officer
Police on patrol near the scene were alerted by the gunshot and chased the bandits
into Ounnalom pagoda, north of the Royal Palace.
"We ordered them to stop the bike, but they tried to shoot us with an AK-47,
instead. So we opened fire first," the police officer said.
One bandit, who was hit by a bullet in the back, died on the stairway of a temple.
Another was shot in the stomach and died later in hospital.
The third bandit escaped on foot.
The incident was the latest in a series of increasingly violent robberies to occur
in Phnom Penh over the last two months.
Lieutenant Colonel Heng Peou, a criminal police officer, said that in the first half
of July, 25 criminal acts were committed in the city involving the theft of 20 motorcycles
and two cars. Two people were killed during the robberies and six wounded. Compared
to June, he said, the rate of robberies has increased 10. 2 percent.
"More and more cruelty keeps increasing into the robberies. They (robbers) just
shoot and kill the people even though the victim had often agreed to hand over their
belongings. This is a very difficult situation we're facing today," the colonel
He said the increase in robberies was caused by the prevalence of gambling sites,
the illegal weapons trade, and the release of hardened criminals onto the streets.
"They never quit their old career. They go gambling and when they loose they
resort to guns to kill more people to get motorcycles they can sell for more money,"
he said, adding that stolen motorcycles were shipped to Vietnam through Kampong Cham,
Svay Rieng, Takeo, Kampot, and Kandal provinces.
He admitted that the police force is struggling to cope with the increasing level
of crime. Peou said it was difficult to prove motorcycles had been stolen because
engine numbers were always changed before they were resold, and because of the flourishing
underground trade in fake number plates and licenses.
"Going out to search for bandits seems like you play a hide-and-seek game in
the dark. It is dangerous and there's no alternative left to us when we are under
attack, except to fire back because our job is to protect the life of the people,"
he said, referring to the killing of the two alleged bandits at Ounnalom pagoda.
A T-3 prison officer who requested anonymity said that early this month 40 prisoners
successfully escaped from the prison after using broken hacksaw to cut through the
Thong Ol, a Phnom Penh municipal court judge, strongly criticized the prison guards
for recklessness, and said the escapees were awaiting trial.
"It's interesting why they (the guards) did not hear the sawing or see the inmates
escape," he mused.