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.