At least two people were killed and another six injured in a series of shootings across the country on Wednesday night, in the latest bloody chapter of an ongoing crime wave critics say police are not doing enough to combat.
A home invasion robbery in Battambang left one man, 54-year-old Phearng Phon, dead and three others injured after five men armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and a K-59 handgun fired multiple shots in the province’s O’Daleur village, according to Kamrieng district police chief Phan Vannara.
“After the shooting ended, the robbers stole a necklace, a gold ring and 3 million riel [about $740] and disappeared,” he said, adding that the police were holding five suspects for interrogation.
He would not disclose their identities.
Hours after speaking to the Post, Vannara was suspended from duty, according to Battambang provincial police chief Sar Phet, who declined to disclose the reason for his suspension.
On the same night, an 18-year-old man in Peam Tong I village in Kampong Speu province was shot dead by an unidentified shooter while rushing alongside other villagers to extinguish a fire engulfing a neighbour’s house, according to acting commander of Phnom Sruoch district military police Ouk Khoeun.
“The victim had been shot three times, once in the left eye, once in the nose, and another in the jaw,” Khoeun said. The shooter has not been found.
In yet another seemingly random act of violence, Phat Tab, 35, was injured after being shot at while closing the door to his house in Kampot’s Prey Peay village, according to Chhouk district police chief Huon Sivutha.
“This is an attempted murder case driven by spite, since after taking his shots, the shooter immediately disappeared without taking any wealth off the victim,” Sivutha said.
Meanwhile, in Phnom Penh late the same evening, 21-year-old car mechanic Sok Lay was beaten and then shot in the arm near his house by two gunmen on Street 70 in Russey Keo district’s Tuol Sangke commune, according to commune police chief Hun Hean. Lay’s friend who was on the motorbike with him was unharmed.
After a motorbike chase, the pair dismounted their bike near Bay’s house. While on his doorstep, the men grabbed Lay, threw him to the ground and kicked him. He was then pistol-whipped in the head and shot in the arm. The attackers escaped.
Early yesterday, Hean identified the assailants as men dressed as police, but in a later interview said authorities “don’t know if it was police of military police”, and insisted the gun had gone off accidentally during an argument.
Legal groups have criticised the government’s lax response to the uptick in armed crime, which saw Prime Minister Hun Sen late last year publicly call for an end to pardons for those guilty of violent crimes.
Earlier this month, Phnom Penh police chief Chuon Sovann revealed that nearly 2,000 felony warrants had been issued over the past 15 years in which no arrests had been made. In 2015 in Phnom Penh alone, there were 473 wanted suspects who remained unfound by police.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator at Licadho, yesterday criticised the police’s apparent inability to shorten that list.
“In the past, the authorities seemed to not put a lot of effort into searching for wanted offenders by making excuses that the offenders had relocated or that [the police] lacked the money and the means to conduct searches. This only motivates offenders to keep troubling society,” he said.
Sung Ly, director of the penal office of Phnom Penh municipal police station, denied to comment saying that he was too busy.
Saran Kamsot, a spokesman for the National Police, said that in response to the crime wave, officers were being urged to work harder.