By Hai Sina
the cambodia daily
Three thieves and a hostage were shot dead in a shootout with police after a failed jewelry store robbery in Siem Reap province yesterday.
The four robbers, including their getaway driver, were stopped at a police roadblock shortly past noon about 10 km away from the main market in Puok district, where they had just stolen about $22,000 worth of merchandise and cash from a pair of jewelry vendors, said Prom Sen, the district police chief.
Mr. Sen said the thieves had initially managed to evade several police roadblocks, running over one officer’s leg in the process, before finally being forced to stop.
At that point, Mr. Sen said, the thieves abandoned the car and ran into a nearby rice field, where they took five farmers hostage, including two women and a boy.
“After we surrounded them in the field, the robbers shot one of the hostages to get the police to clear a way. But then they shot at the police and the police killed three of them and seriously injured the other,” he said.
He said the murdered hostage was a man and identified one of the dead robbers as Chan Sovan, 36.
The robbed jewelry vendors and the other hostages all survived the ordeal uninjured, Mr. Sen added, and said that about 300 district and provincial police had taken part in the operation.
District deputy governor Oeng Lark said the police had tried to talk the robbers out of the standoff before the hostage was killed and the gun battle erupted.
“Before the fighting, we were negotiating with the robbers, but they wouldn’t release the hostages once they were surrounded,” Mr. Lark said.
“When the police surrounded them, they dared to shoot at the police because the robbers wanted to get away,” added provincial serious crimes bureau chief Doung Sokha, who witnessed the standoff. “The robbers shot at the police first after they were surrounded.”
Contradicting Mr. Sen, however, Mr. Sokha said two other hostages had also been injured in the final shootout. He had no details of their wounds or their conditions but said they and the injured police officer were being treated at the provincial hospital in Siem Reap.
“It is a cruel case and for the district, it is the first case of a robbery with killing” this year, Mr. Sokha said.
In a separate incident in Banteay Meanchey province yesterday, four thieves robbed four money exchangers and jewelry vendors at a market in O’Chrou district at about 4:30 p.m. and made off with an unknown quantity of cash and gold, according to deputy district police chief Sorm Sophin.
Mr. Sophin said two of the robbers had escaped and two others were being hunted by police and were believed to be surrounded by police in a field yesterday night about five km from the scene of the robbery.