Three people were arrested yesterday in Kampong Speu province for their alleged role in the brutal mob killing of a mentally ill man who was beaten to death on Wednesday night and his corpse burned.
Som Bora, Kampong Speu deputy police chief, told the Post that the three men had been part of a mob of villagers in Trapaing Kong commune’s Srae Ombel village that murdered 27-year-old Noun Puttrea, a suspected thief.
“They ganged up, beat him and did not give any opportunity for the victim to say anything,” Bora said.
The authorities “will keep them in prison . . . They are bad people,” he continued.
Bora was unable to provide names of those arrested, but said one was the the ringleader of the attack.
He added that the three detainees were found yesterday by police hiding in the same village where the murder took place. Twenty other members of the mob who have been identified appear to have fled the area.
“We are now chasing them,” he said.
According to officials, Puttrea was murdered because villagers believed him to be a thief.
Srae Ombel village chief Choub Norn said that at about 8:30pm on Wednesday, Puttrea was caught allegedly attempting to break into a villager’s home.
The villager then made a citizen’s arrest and brought Puttrea to Norn’s office, claiming that he was behind a string of cow thefts.
But before allowing the justice system to take its course, hoards of angry villagers decided to take the law into their own hands.
“At around 9pm, while I was calling the police, more than a hundred of the villagers beat him, and then even after four police officers arrived, they did not stop. In fact, they attacked me and the police too,” he said.
Norn said that police were unable to stop the attack.
“The villagers were determined to beat the victim. None of them listened to the police; they even hit the police,” he said.
“A while later, they dragged the victim into a rice field and beat him until he died, then they burned his body.”
Putrea, who lived in Kandal province, had been missing for more than a month at the time of his murder.
Following his death, his family showed police an official diagnosis proving that he had a mental illness.
According to Norn, the shocking killing was the first of its kind in the quiet village.
Elsewhere in Cambodia, such attacks are not unheard of.
Last April, a mob in Takeo province beat and stoned a man to death based on the belief that he was a sorcerer responsible for the unexplained demise of nine community members.
Months earlier, a Vietnamese-Cambodian was beaten to death by a mob in Phnom Penh after a confrontation erupted between a group of ethnic Vietnamese and bystanders at the scene of a traffic accident.
Am Sam Ath, senior coordinator for rights group Licadho, said that the most recent killing occurred because of a lack of faith in Cambodia’s justice system.
“There is a culture that Cambodian people have no faith in the court. It becomes a matter of revenge”.