A hundreds-strong mob savagely beat and then burned a suspected motorbike thief to death in Phnom Penh Friday night while an accomplice of the dead man was later fatally shot while allegedly trying to escape from police custody.
Circumstances surrounding the double killing are being investigated Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara and a local human rights group said Monday.
Song Veasna, 23, was beaten unconscious and may have been dead when he was doused with gasoline and set on fire on Street 107 at around 10 pm. He had been arrested by district and military police officials for allegedly stealing a motorcycle near the Olympic Stadium.
Yim Symony, Prampi Makara district police chief, said Monday that Song Veasna was dragged away from police and killed by an angry mob who assembled near Street 107.
“Police tried to take him away in a car but people dragged him out of the car and beat him to death,” Yim Symony said, confirming that liters of gasoline were poured over the seemingly dead man and set alight.
One military police officer was hurt trying to protect the suspect, Yim Symony said.
Alleged accomplice Dy Hor, 21, was arrested quickly by police officers and escaped the mob punishment.
However, Dy Hor was shot to death around 11 pm when he allegedly tried to escape from police officers, who had brought him to find a house where he said he had hidden three stolen motorcycles but were distracted when their car stalled.
Eva Galabru, director of human rights group Licadho, said Monday the mob killing will be investigated but noted the police are very capable of containing violent crowds when the need arises.
The circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Dy Hor need to be thoroughly examined, Eva Galabru said.
“It’s not clear why the police were where they were when the car allegedly stalled and [the suspect] was shot,” Eva Galabru said.
Both Yim Symony and Military Police Commander of Prambi Makara district Khol Samphon, denied claims by two witnesses Monday who said they saw police take Song Veasna away in a car but return him to the mob shortly afterwards.
Keo Chandara, 20, a student at the Cambodian Institute of Technology, said he saw Song Veasna being brought back to the site where he later died.
“In my opinion he should have gone with police. But the police brought him back. I don’t know why,” Keo Chandara said.
A second 25-year-old man who witnessed the beating but would not give his name also said the murdered man was brought back to the crowd.
“I’ve never seen anything so cruel. Teenager boys set him on fire,” he said.