Pub Street Pickpockets Picked Up by Police

A gang of petty thieves that had been sneaking wallets and mobile phones out of purses and backpacks on Pub Street, Siem Reap’s hangout for bar-hopping foreigners, have picked their last pockets, authorities said.

The crew, whose youngest members were just 12, had drawn the ire of tourists who were targeted over the past two weeks, said Hang Sophaphearum, chief of Siem Reap’s minor crimes bureau.

“I received some complaints from foreigners and then I led police to investigate at Pub Street,” he said.

The pickpockets were caught red-handed, he said. Police patrolling the strip saw two suspects following male tourists in an attempt to steal from them at about 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Mr. Sophaphearum said.

Under questioning, the two quickly snitched on the rest of the gang, which had nine members and two ringleaders, and revealed their whereabouts, he said.

Chim Chou, 28, a fried insect vendor on Pub Street, said he welcomed the arrests, as such thievery could prevent tourists from returning to Cambodia.

“I am happy, because they caused insecurity,” he said. “The place was not safe.”

Tom Chorn, 33, and Tom Saron, 22, identified as the group’s ringleaders, collected the stolen wallets and other items, Mr. Sophaphearum said.

He named the other members as Tep Sreynith, 24; Em Phos, 23; Phoeun Sophan, 23; Moa Ta, 18; Pet Rith, 15; Rong Roeun, 14; Preng Lean, 12; and Tom Chan, 12.

By Wednesday afternoon, all 11 had confessed to involvement after being questioned at the Siem Reap City police headquarters, he said.

Eight of the older suspects were charged with theft at the Siem Reap Provincial Court on Thursday afternoon and were sent to pretrial detention at the provincial prison, he said, while the youngest three were sent to a rehabilitation center.

Theft is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 6 million riel, or about $1,500.

(Additional reporting by Phan Soumy)

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