Kompong Speu Clerk Latest Fatality in Nationwide Violent Crime Wave

A commune clerk was killed during a brazen armed robbery at a market in Kompong Speu province on Saturday morning, according to police, the latest in a string of similar crimes across the country.

Two men armed with assault rifles entered the Talat market in Phnom Sruoch district at around 10:30 a.m. and made off with about 20 damlung (about 750 grams) of platinum and gold jewelry from a single shop after shooting dead an official who attempted to intervene, according to deputy provincial police chief Saom Bora.

“In Thoeun, 47, an O commune clerk, was running to help the gold seller when the gunmen fired at him, hitting him with one bullet in the right shoulder, which passed through his chest and killed him at the scene,” he said.

Mr. Bora said no one else was injured, and that provincial police were searching for the suspects in wooded areas near the market. “The forest is very thick and our force is very small,” he said, adding that he was nevertheless confident the men would be caught.

Saturday’s was the second armed robbery in Kompong Speu this month, and comes amid a nationwide crime wave that has drawn the attention of Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

On the evening of December 6, an armed gang attacked and robbed the foreman of a mango plantation and his two children, also in Phnom Sruoch district. According to police, the assailants shot the foreman in the knee and tortured his young daughter and adult son in an attempt to convince their father to reveal the location of his valuables—four mobile phones and an unspecified amount of money and jewelry.

Mr. Bora said Sunday that he was confident, however, that Saturday’s robbery was not carried out by the men believed to be responsible for the previous one, which also resulted in no arrests.

“This group is new, as there were only two of them, both using AK-47s,” he said.

The market holdup also bears resemblance to the December 12 robbery of the owner of a Battambang City jewelry shop and money exchange, from whom roughly $300,000 worth of gold and cash was stolen.

Two suspects were arrested the following day, and two accomplices were apprehended on Thursday, according to deputy Battambang provincial police chief Chet Vanny.

“Police confiscated two handguns, two motorbikes and some gold jewelry” from the suspects, he said. “Police are continuing to seek three other gunmen [in the same case] who are at large.”

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