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Pursat, Battambang villagers say armed robbery on the rise

Pursat, Battambang villagers say armed robbery on the rise

Villagers' robbery totals in many cases differ from totals provided by

police, who some allege are not doing enough to curb the trend.

CHHIT Cheak, 52, was getting ready for bed Saturday night when four robbers entered his home in Pursat's Bakan district, pistol-whipped him and pointed a gun to his head. One of the robbers then cut his head with an ax, he said, before the group stole more than US$300 worth of gold and $50 in cash.

"They hit me and tried to kill me because I had no more money for them, but luckily I was able to hide under a heavy bed," he said.

Chhit Cheak said he has heard of five cases of similar armed robberies this year in nearby villages.

Other villagers in Bakan district said there have been at least two cases of armed robbery in the district this month. They said they had also heard of other robberies taking place elsewhere in Pursat, marking an increase over previous years.

But Ros Bunnan, provincial police chief in Pursat, told the Post Wednesday that there had been just one robbery case this year and four or five in 2008.

"I do not think robbery cases have increased in my province," he said.  

But Pursat is not the only place where villagers' accounts conflict with those of law enforcement officials.

In recent interviews with the Post, villagers in Battambang and Pailin provinces also reported a spate of robberies in rural areas, with some asserting that ineffective law enforcement had failed to address the problem.

Effects of the robberies

"They are frightening people," Chhit Cheak said of the robberies. "People do not dare go out of their homes at nighttime."

"I am worried of robberies because they have happened more and more in remote villages", said Mom Sarin, who also lives in Bakan. "They

are armed with guns and no one dares to intervene."

Mom Sarin said the tight networks typical of rural villages worked in the robbers' favour.

"When they know someone has sold rice, pigs or cows, they can then rob them at nighttime," Mom Sarin said.

Yoeum Ny, 49, who lives in Battambang's Banan district, said she was robbed at knifepoint Sunday night of 1,100,000 riels ($266.60) and 16,000 baht ($445.18).

"They robbed me, they hit me and they cut me with a knife when I was shouting for intervention from relatives," she said. "I did not know if they had guns or not because it was so dark. But they threatened to kill me, and then they slashed me with a knife."

She added: "We all are worried of security at nighttime. We cannot sleep because we are worried about robberies."

Yin Mengly, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said there have been at least two armed robberies in Bakan in February, one on February 19 and another on Sunday. He added that he believes there have been more in other districts.

Por Vannak, military police chief in Battambang, said there were at least 10 robbery cases this year in the province.

Sor Thet, Battambang's police chief, acknowledged that robberies were on the rise in remote villages but said he did not have enough officers at his disposal to launch a crackdown.