A face-off between police and alleged drug traffickers at a guesthouse in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district Friday night left one suspect dead, another arrested and two police officers injured, officials said Sunday.
After following the two suspects for one week as they traveled from Stung Treng province, 20 Interior Ministry anti-drug police officers showed up at the guesthouse at 5:30 pm Friday to find one of the suspects out front in the parking lot trying to escape, said Lieutenant Colonel Van Sokal of the anti-drug unit.
While police were attempting to arrest the suspect, 34-year-old Vorn Mor punched out one officer before firing his own gun into the crowd of police, hitting another officer in the stomach. Police then opened fire on Vorn Mor, shooting him dead, said Van Sokal.
Vorn Mor had previously been arrested on drug smuggling charges in January 2006, but was released after serving a short jail sentence, according to Moek Dara, the ministry’s anti-drug police chief.
Officers then stormed the guesthouse and came upon the second trafficker, Nguyen Tang Thy, in one of the rooms where he was found with 20,000 amphetamine pills, each worth about $2.50.
Moek Dara said the arrest of 44-year-old Nguyen Tang Thy went smoothly, and the suspect later confessed the identity of the mastermind behind his drug operation—which was a trafficking triangle between Laos, Stung Treng and Phnom Penh, according to Van Sokal. Moek Dara declined to release the name of this ringleader, but said police will move forward with an arrest shortly.
Moek Dara expressed regret that the first suspect had been killed, but said it was a matter of his officers’ safety.
“We are so sorry about this, but we had no choice,” he said.