Amid online rumors of children being abducted to harvest their organs, a mob in Prey Veng province attacked a man on Thursday after he pretended to kidnap a child and threatened to cut out his kidney, police said.
Horn Mak, 34, was playing with a group of children in Peamro district around 9 a.m. when he made the threat, according to Pov Chivi, deputy provincial police chief.
Mr. Mak told the child “’You come around here, I will catch you to cut out your kidney,’ and then a friend of the victim said, ‘Yes, catch him,’” Mr. Chivi said. Then he picked up one of the children and placed him briefly into the back of his truck, he said.
Shaken by the threat, the child returned home in tears and informed his parents, the policeman said.
“When he released the child, the child became very scared and cried and ran to his parents, who made a complaint to the village chief,” Mr. Chivi said.
Rumors swiftly spread around Peam Meanchey commune and when Mr. Mak returned around 12.30 p.m., he was set upon by a mob, which started to beat him, Mr. Chivi said. Police intervened and took him to the district police station.
Photos on local media show Mr. Mak bearing bruises to his face.
Under questioning at the police station, Mr. Mak was warned about the dangers of making such threats—no matter how playful—due to current fears of kidnappings, Mr. Chivi said.
The beating came as rumors spread across the country in past weeks of children being kidnapped to have their kidneys harvested and trafficked. Last Saturday, more than 1,000 people in Kompong Thom province beat two men wrongly suspected of kidnapping, then trashed a commune police station.
Police reported the case to a prosecutor at the provincial court, who ordered Mr. Mak’s release after concluding he was only joking with the child.
After being released on Friday morning, he sought treatment for minor injuries at the provincial referral hospital, Mr. Chivi said.