A motorbike thief was shot dead in a chase and shootout with police in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet City on Monday night, according to officials, although a rights worker who spoke with witnesses disputed their account.
Provincial police chief Ath Khem said Tuesday that Poipet City police had been tailing two thieves driving motorbikes they had just stolen when the shootout began.
He said one of the thieves was shot dead, with a single bullet to the heart, and that the other man, who had a gun, escaped after abandoning his vehicle.
“The gunman has two arrest warrants for him involving armed robbery in Kompong Cham province, but last night they were being chased by our police and they opened fire on us,” Mr. Khem said.
He said he did not know the name of either thief, but that officers were searching for the man who escaped. He said the two stolen motorbikes had been returned to their owners.
Poipet City police chief Oum Sophal could not be reached for comment.
Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said witnesses he spoke to provided a different account.
Mr. Chankea said moto-taxi drivers who claimed to have seen a part of the chase told him that the men pursuing the thieves were in plain clothes and that those same men were seen fleeing the area afterward. Only later, the drivers told him, did uniformed police arrive.
He said a woman who claimed to have heard the shooting, which occurred outside a local pagoda, told him that she heard only one shot, suggesting that there was no shootout.
“The police shooting of the thief was not the shooting of an armed robber, because the thief had no gun,” Mr. Chankea said.