Motorbike Theft Spurs Mob Killing in Kompong Speu

A mob of about 60 men pursued a motorbike thief through seven villages in remote Kompong Speu prov­ince on Sunday evening before sur­rounding him in a rice field and bludgeoning him to death with sticks, according to police, who later identified the victim as a local newspaper reporter.

Meng Chhoeun, 37, stole a 2012 Honda Dream from under a stilt house in Kong Pisei district’s Veal com­mune at about 7 p.m. and at­tempted to drive away un­seen on the vehicle but was spotted by neighbors who gave chase on foot while also alerting residents of other villages in the commune, dis­trict police chief Kim So­phan­nara said on Monday.

A 30-minute chase ensued, the po­lice chief said, during which Meng Chhoeun drove through sev­en villages in an at­tempt to avoid an angry mob of lo­cal farmers and twilight frog hunters.

When the thief reached a dead end at the edge of a rice field, he dropp­ed the stolen motorbike and ran into the paddy but was quick­ly surrounded by about 60 men who used wooden sticks to beat him on the head and tor­so, he said.

“Meng Chhoeun, 37, the dead vic­tim, was killed by a mob from sev­en villages,” said Mr. Sophan­nara, who put the time of death at ex­actly 7:25 p.m.—despite admitting that he and other officers ar­rived at the scene well after the mob dis­persed and made no arrests.

He said investigators had found a government-issued press pass in Meng Chhoeun’s pocket that identified him as a reporter for the Rasmei Preah Vihear Newspaper.

Deputy provincial police chief Saom Bora said police could not have stopped the mob, nor made any arrests in the case.

“The mob killing occurred last night in a remote area far from the [nearest] police station, and the mo­torbike thief died before police arrived,” he said, saying the case had been transferred to the Kom­pong Speu Provincial Court.

Soeu Longdy, a deputy prosecutor at the court, declined to di­vulge details about the case, saying only that Meng Chhoeun’s body had been returned to his family.

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