A local rights group called the killing of two robbery suspects by an angry mob on Tuesday an “execution” and condemned the police for failing to intervene.
“It was a very cruel execution,” Chan Soveth of the rights group Adhoc said Wednesday. “Police did not do enough to take the robbers away but closed their eyes and let people beat them to death.”
But Dangkao District Deputy Police Chief Chuop Sok Heng said three of his men were injured in the melee and police could not stop the beating of 21-year-old Phon Nat and 30-year-old Ken Veasna.
“We tried our best to help them but we had only six [men],” Chuop Sok Heng said. “How could we deal with an angry mob of 200 to 300 people?” He said the two and a third man named Chang allegedly attempted to steal a motorbike in Chaum Chao commune.
A teacher at a nearby school who noticed a brawl between the men and the bike’s owner shot a gun into the air to alert authorities. The shots attracted scores of villagers and factory workers who chased Phon Nat and Ken Veasna into a walled-off field and began beating them.
Photos on the front page of Island of Peace (Koh Santepheap) newspaper Wednesday showed the two men, one sitting up, another on his side and his head covered in blood. Eight policemen—one smiling—can be seen standing between them and the mob. A second photo shows the men dead.
“The execution by people who are angry with bandits is becoming a bad habit, a bad culture within Cambodia,” Chan Soveth said.
Rights workers have repeatedly condemned what they call Cambodia’s “culture of impunity.”
In June, two men suspected of stealing motorbikes were beaten to death by lay students at Wat Botum while monks watched. In September, students at the Royal University of Fine Arts severely beat a robbery suspect in September as police looked on.