A 23-year-old man was beaten bloody and unconscious by a group of villagers in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district after he and another man allegedly stole a motorbike on Saturday.
Phann Phoeun, police chief of Por Sen Chey’s Kambol commune, said the villagers, who were alerted to the motorcycle’s theft when its owner shouted for help, unleashed unrestrained vigilante retribution on the suspect before handing him over to police.
The incident began when the bike’s owner heard his vehicle’s engine start, rushed out of his apartment to investigate, and saw two men making off with the bike, Phoeun said.
A large group of villagers whose number Phoeun could not specify heeded the victim’s cry and followed the two alleged thieves until the stolen bike that the fleeing men were riding pitched into a hole in the road and knocked its two passengers to the ground.
One of the two escaped, and the mob of villagers beat the other with fists, feet and sticks until he passed out.
“People expressed their anger by beating the robber,” Phoeun said. “When police arrived, they took the suspect to the hospital for treatment.”
Phoeun said that the beaten man had been jobless and renting a home in Kambol market.
He added that no villagers were arrested for the beating because they had assisted the police in making his arrest.
In past mob violence cases, police and observers have emphasised the difficulty in differentiating those involved in mob violence from mere bystanders and therefore in making appropriate arrests in such cases.
Vong Sereivuth, Por Sen Chey district deputy police chief, said yesterday that the alleged thief, following hospitalisation, was in police custody for questioning and that authorities were looking for his accomplice.
“We will send the suspect to court, in accordance with procedure,” he said.
The incident follows a spate of mob attacks and is the fourth in as many months.
In Kampong Cham in October, villagers beat to death a man who had snatched an elderly woman’s necklace.
In September, a Phnom Penh mob killed two robbers who had shot and wounded a gold seller’s family members.
And in August, a group of Phnom Penh residents attacked a suspected motorbike thief.
Civil society groups have attributed mob violence in Cambodia to lack of faith in the justice system.
Adhoc director Thun Saray said last month that the trend over the years showed a decline in mob violence but that he was concerned by the recent upsurge.