A mob of about 20 people beat a man to death Monday after he and two other men attempted to carry out a series of nighttime robberies in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district, officials said.
Liv Vantheng, the chief of Prek Thmei commune, where the fatal attack took place, said the owner of a vegetable shop saw the three men after they stole an armchair from a house and placed it in the road in the early hours of the morning.
“They had already stolen one armchair and left it on the street, and they were trying to steal other things,” he said.
Mr. Vantheng said that two of the men fled the neighborhood upon being spotted, while a third man was not so lucky.
“We estimated that about 20 villagers came together to beat the thief,” he said, adding that members of the mob kicked and punched the man in the head until he fell unconscious.
Mr. Vantheng said the man was then taken to Calmette Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead at 9 a.m.
“The villagers were angry, but they should not have used violence. They should have let police deal with it because we have laws to prosecute offenders who commit crimes.”
Commune police chief Taing Cheaseng said investigators had so far been unable to identify the dead man, his alleged accomplices or the villagers responsible for the fatal beating.
District police chief Em Saravuth said the villagers were quick to use violence Monday because the attempted robbery followed a spate of robberies about a month ago.
“Villagers were angry with these thieves because they had their property stolen many times before,” he said. “We feel bad for the dead thief. It was just a small thing to steal one chair.”
Mr. Vantheng, the commune chief, said the dead man’s body was being kept at the Stung Meanchey pagoda in the hopes that his relatives would come and identify him. He said that if the man’s family did not show up today, the body would be cremated.