Police Executed Theft Suspects, Witnesses Say

Ten witnesses to Friday’s shoot­ings of two alleged car thieves described the killings Sunday as point-blank executions by plain-clothes police officers.

Newly promoted Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Heng Pov has hailed the shootings as part of a successful crackdown on a skilled and active car theft ring.                         He has said that the police officers shot the two suspects in self-de­fense, after the suspects fired on officers ap­proaching their parked car.

But people living and working on Czech­os­lo­v­akia Boule­vard, near the site of the shootings, gave different ac­counts on Sun­day.

They saw the suspects’ car traveling north, pursued by two un­marked police cars and at least two police on motorcycles, they said. The car appeared to be turning right on Street 122, near the Ministry of Defense, but then stopped in a driveway near the intersection, they said.

One food vendor recalled three plainclothes officers, armed with two pistols and one AK-47 rifle, get out of a police car and carefully approach the suspects at 3:40 pm.

He said he heard one officer or­der the car’s two occupants to sit still before slipping his pistol into the cracked driver’s door and shooting both men with six or seven bullets.

A second officer shot the men two or three more times with the AK-47, the vendor said.

All 10 witnes­ses interviewed on Sun­day said the suspects did not fire on police and had raised their hands in surrender before police shot them at close range.

All witnesses said there was no indication that the suspects were armed. Women playing cards in the park on Sun­day re­called hearing the plainclothes of­ficer order the suspects to “Keep quiet. Don’t react,” before shooting them. “I saw the driver raise both hands to surrender. Then the pol­ice shot him immediately,” one woman said. “We are living in fear because of the rumor of [Senate Pres­ident] Chea Sim’s arrest, and then we saw this,” another food vendor said.

Because the officers were not in uniform, the vendor said: “At the time we didn’t know what the truth was about these people. We thought they were killing opposition activists.”

Heng Pov said Sunday that the witnesses were “lying.” A police vehicle has a bullet hole in it that proves the suspects shot at pol­ice, he said.

“The police had no intention to kill them, but when police ap­proached their car to arrest them, they opened fire with two pistols,” Heng Pov said.

He identified one of the dead suspects as Prum Tun, a serial car thief who had been repeatedly ar­rested. The second man had not been identified, he said. He declined to name the officers in­volved.

Police acted after receiving com­plaints of car thefts from foreign NGO officials and embassy officials, Heng Pov said.

Saturday’s edition of the Kh­mer-language Rasmei Kampu­chea newspaper featured a photo of Municipal Minor Crime Chief Ly Racy returning a vehicle to a woman, whom it identified only as the Australian first secretary.

Several Australian Embassy of­ficials declined to comment Sun­day, but one of the embassy’s Cam­­­bodian interpreters identified the woman as First Secretary Sue McQualter.


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