PM Calls for Crackdown on Armed Gangs After Crime Wave

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered authorities around the country to “crack down” on groups involved in armed robberies following a recent crime wave that has left a number of people killed and injured.

Speaking at a gathering of senior Buddhist, Muslim and Christian leaders on Koh Pich island in Phnom Penh on Monday, Mr. Hun Sen said that despite being a “model country” for sectarian calm, Cambodia was nevertheless experiencing a rash of armed violence.

Two men suspected in a deadly armed motorcycle robbery in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kok district, center left and center right, are led into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Two men suspected in a deadly armed motorcycle robbery in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district, center left and center right, are led into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“Religions educate people to do good deeds, not to steal and rob,” the premier told the audience. “But armed robberies have taken place in the last few weeks.”

“So I have released an order…to competent authorities to pay close attention everywhere to crack down on armed-robbery criminal groups,” he said.

There have been a number of armed robberies throughout the country since last month. On November 15, a 13-year-old boy was killed in Kampot province when two men attempted to steal a Honda Dream motorbike. On November 22, three people were shot and injured when four men stole a KTM Duke motorcycle from them in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.

On Friday, a 21-year-old man was shot and killed in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district in another Honda Dream theft. Authorities eventually arrested four suspects in that case, killing two others in a shootout. Over the weekend, three separate armed robberies in Kandal, Battambang and Pursat provinces led to the shooting death of a 31-year-old woman and more than $300,000 in gold and money being stolen.

The prime minister added in his speech that many of those involved in the recent armed robberies had been previously imprisoned and released, and suggested that pardons and reduced sentences for such convicts needed to be curtailed.

“According to reports, robbers with the same faces are the ones fighting with the Phnom Penh Municipal Police,” he said. “His Excellency Justice Minister [Ang Vong Vathana] should thoroughly consider not releasing [early] many of those who are imprisoned over robbery and drug-trafficking convictions because they come out and rob again and again in many places.”

Phnom Penh penal police chief Eng Sorphea said that police had captured four suspects on Friday who admitted to being involved in the November 22 shooting and a number of other crimes.

“They confessed that they committed five robberies in Meanchey district and shot six victims,” Mr. Sorphea said. “They told police that there are seven suspects that are from their group who are still at large, and now we are looking for them to arrest them.”

Asked about investigations into Friday’s deadly robbery in Tuol Kok district, Phnom Penh military police commander Rath Srieng said that the two men killed in the shootout —aged 18 and 19—were leaders of a criminal gang responsible for a number of crimes around the city.

“The two suspects who died are ringleaders who were involved in many robberies in Phnom Penh,” Major General Srieng said, referring questions regarding the four arrested suspects to municipal court officials, who declined to comment.

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