Alleged Kidnapper Shot as New Tensions Shutter Shops

Police shot and killed a suspected kidnapper during a raid on his hideout as the city’s gold shops re­mained closed Sunday be­cause of fears of kidnapping and political violence.

The shooting occurred after Phnom Penh penal police surrounded a house on Street 51, across from Wat Langka, where they believed a kidnapping victim was being held, penal police chief Khuon Sophon said Sunday.

Two of the alleged kidnappers surrendered to police, but two others who were armed attempted to escape, witnesses said.

One, identified by police only as “Cheath,” was shot and killed.

The kidnapping victim, a university student named Yen Sithoeun, was released to his family un­harmed.

The alleged kidnappers abducted Yen Sithoeun last Friday and sold his car, police said. Money from the sale was allegedly used to buy guns and mobile phones for the kidnappers to contact Yen Sithoeun’s family and demand a ransom, Khuon Sophon said.

The shooting and arrests come as tensions increase among Phnom Penh’s business community due to a rash of kidnappings.                         Some of the city’s leading business members, including Mong Reththy and Phnom Penh Cham­ber of Com­merce Treasurer Pung Kheav Se, have demanded the government take action.

A government task force was reconstituted last week to in­clude army, police and top In­terior Ministry officials to better address the problem.

The kidnappers’ targets have been predominantly the relatives of wealthy Cam­bodians and ethnic Chinese business people.

However, the exact number of abductions that have taken place recently is unknown because many go unreported, police said.

Rumors were flying of several high-profile abductions in the city last week, including that of two gold dealers. But police could not confirm the stories.

Shop owners have been closing throughout the month. For example, Movie Street Video Center, or MTV, on Sihanouk Boule­vard shut down last week.

Some owners cited fears of abduction and political violence as polling day approaches as the reason for closures.

Nearly half of the gold vendors at Olympic Market have shut their stalls with no intention of re-opening before the election, market officials said Sunday.

A Phsar Thmei committee member, Long Then, said Sun­day that nearly all of the market’s several hundred gold vendors were closed because they feared violence might erupt among opposing political party supporters.

Despite National Assembly President Chea Sim’s Sun­day morning visit to Phsar Thmei to reassure vendors that there was nothing to fear, several food vendors said they were still nervous.

One of the handful of gold sellers who stayed open Sunday said rumors of abductions were keeping many vendors at home.

The vendor, speaking on condition of anonymity because she feared she might be kidnapped, said she would stay open this week if the city appeared to re­main calm.


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