Phnom Penh police on Wednesday night arrested more than two dozen suspects following a vicious mob beating that nearly killed a man in Meanchey district and saw more than 50 military police officers respond to the scene.
The 28 arrested are workers at the Ci Hu Hui ceramic tiles warehouse, police said yesterday. Their victim, 24-year-old Reth Thorn, who lives in a rental house near the warehouse, was in serious condition when he arrived at Calmette Hospital, they added.
“The victim’s condition is very serious right now,” said Or Kim San, secretary of the capital’s military police. “The group beat him attempting to kill him. Luckily, he survived and was sent to the hospital on time with the help from the neighbours.”
But interviews with the victim, suspects and witnesses offered conflicting accounts of the attack.
According to Thorn, the warehouse workers were drinking and dancing near his apartment. Angry at the noise, he emerged and got into an altercation with the revellers, which quickly escalated into an uneven fight in which suspects allegedly used a “sword” and an iron rod to beat and slash him.
The suspects then locked themselves in the warehouse following the attack, necessitating the call for heavy reinforcements, who broke into the building and made the arrests.
Several residents, who had initially called police to the scene, offered a similar version of events.
But the suspected workers had a different story. They claimed that Thorn was one of a group of 10 people that had earlier beaten up two of their own, who then ran to the warehouse for help.
According to the suspects, 16 of them came out of the warehouse armed with iron pipes, knives and other tools to fight their assailants, only to see nine of the attackers run off, leaving Thorn to suffer the consequences alone. Twelve warehouse workers never left the premises, the suspects said.
“This is the claim brought by the suspects; when they fought back, the other group ran away, leaving the victim alone,” said Kim San.
Police said they were still investigating and had not yet reached any conclusion.
A Calmette Hospital staffer said yesterday a man matching Thorn’s description was admitted on Wednesday night but she declined to name him.
The staffer said the patient had been moved out of the hospital’s emergency unit earlier yesterday, meaning that his condition has improved. A doctor who treated the victim was unavailable for comment.
Additional reporting by Igor Kossov