Police Say ‘Underwear Gang’ Caught

With the recent arrests of eight men on robbery charges, police say they have broken up the notorious “Underwear Gang,” blamed for a string of armed robberies and rapes  that terrorized villagers across five provinces last year.

Police have arrested 25 men, and shot and killed another in a yearlong crackdown on the gang who wore nothing but underwear and painted their bodies black, said Lek Vannak, chief of Interior Ministry penal police.

They raped and robbed, and were so feared that they reportedly could convince victims to drop valuables out a window out of sheer intimidation, police said

“So from now on we will have no more armed robbery from these underwear gangsters in our country,” Lek Vannak said.

In operations involving municipal, military, local and Interior police, suspects were rounded up and interrogated until all gang members were captured, he said.

Lek Vannak did not say if the gang had a leader or if he had been captured or how the suspects  are connected.

The eight suspects paraded at a press conference Monday were later charged with robbery in Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The other suspects had been arrested in Phnom Penh and Takeo, Kandal, Kompong Speu and Prey Veng provinces. Another was shot and killed in Kompong Speu.

The gang robbed people in the remote countryside, Lek Vannak said. As rumors of the gang spread, rural villagers became more terrified. Family members who heard the gang was nearby sometimes were too afraid to leave the house, Lek Vannak said. Some of the suspects under arrest were accused of rape as well.

“We tried very hard to crack down on these armed robberies since 2000,” Lek Vannak said.

He said the gang was difficult to break up because it roamed over several provinces and stayed in the countryside. Busting the gang was a priority, he said, because members thought they were beyond capture.


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