Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday expressed his admiration for the security forces who handled last week’s Acleda Bank stand-off, but took pains to remind listeners that the so-called hostage situation didn’t fool him for a minute.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony on Koh Pich, the premier said that he had ordered National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun to give in to the bank robbers’ every demand, knowing that the heist was an inside job and that a slip-up in taking the thieves down would result in a loss of both evidence and face.
“I’m so sorry for the bank about the incident, but I assumed correctly. I didn’t speak up, but I told [Savoeun] to give them whatever they demanded – drugs, the bank’s key, motorbikes, whatever,” he said.
“I suspected something when they did not need money, but drugs. I told Voeun that they didn’t need money if they were inside a bank. Why would they need money from outside if they were locked in the money room? I assumed that it could be the bank’s staff, and it was the truth.”
Hun Sen also said it was lucky that no one was killed during the operation – a mistake that would have resulted in blowback.
“First, the bank would have condemned government forces. Second, we would lose all the evidence,” he said. “The robbers would be lost, and the hostages’ families – who are internal accomplices – would be awarded compensation by the bank.”
Last Wednesday, four staffers at a tiny Acleda Bank branch in Kampong Cham province’s Beak Anlung village and two others allegedly orchestrated an elaborate bank heist – in which the thieves masqueraded as hostage-takers in a 30-hour stand-off – meant to obscure the embezzlement of its financial director, suspect Sin Kimthath.
Kampong Cham provincial prosecutor Hout Vuthy said the court is still looking for additional accomplices who may have been involved in the stand-off, but declined to comment in detail. Meanwhile, police are still looking for two other suspects linked to the attack, one of whom is Kimthath’s brother, and another who is suspected of selling the group the gun used in the assault.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]