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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Summary execution alleged

Summary execution alleged

AT least two of three men reportedly killed in a shoot-out with police just before

dawn on March 18 were executed at near point-blank range as they lay on the ground,

according to one eyewitness.

"I saw two guys [on the ground] and police held guns to their heads. They went

bang, bang," said the witness who spoke anonymously out of fear for his own

safety.

The police account of the killing claimed that the three men were planning a robbery

when police - tipped off by a fourth man they had detained - began tailing the gang

as they drove a moped down Sihanouk Blvd.

The men reportedly panicked and opened fire on their pursuers, injuring one policeman.

Police said they responded by gunning down two of their assailants - one as he attempted

to climb the fence into the Olympic Stadium - while the third man escaped.

The fourth man, who allegedly led police to the other three - and who claimed the

three men had planned to commit a crime with him - then tried to escape from police

before they gunned him down as well, according to municipal crime police chief Khuon

Sophon.

"These were real robbers," he said.

The bodies of the three 20- to 30-year-old men - two of which had head wounds - were

thrown into a cesspool on the edge of the Olympic Stadium complex just before dawn.

Hours later they were pulled out and taken to Mohamontrei pagoda where they were

laid out for photographers.

Last year, authorities in Phnom Penh killed or wounded about one suspect in every

14 while arresting them, according to municipal statistics - data human rights workers

cite as evidence that authorities, knowing they will never be prosecuted have a blank

slate to act as judge and jury, dishing out the death penalty as they see fit.

The witness to the killing agreed with such sentiments.

"In Cambodia, that is justice.

"Police just kill robbers," he said, adding that police usually take a

bribe to let people free, "except when they get angry."

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