The men who shot and robbed a 63-year-old French tourist in Ratanakkiri province Monday are suspected of conducting several other armed robberies, police said Tuesday.
The Frenchman, identified as George Rostaing by the French Embassy, was shot in the stomach with an AK-47 rifle by two men who then robbed him of his camera. Rostaing was walking with his wife outside the normally sleepy and safe provincial capital Banlung when the robbers struck, Banlung district deputy police chief Yun Bunna said.
The armed robbers have not been identified as they wore masks during the robberies, but based on witness descriptions, police think the men who shot the Frenchman also carried out three or four robberies on local people.
“They observe villagers in the market who exchange a lot of money, and then they start to follow them,” Yun Bunna said.
Officials said Rostaing was treated first at the provincial referral hospital in Banlung then sent to Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh.
According to the Calmette registry and doctors, the injured man, who they identified as Henri-George Rostang, left the hospital at 8 pm on Monday.
“He was not gravely wounded. The bullet went through the fat of his stomach, on the side, that’s all,” French Embassy spokeswoman Fabyene Mansencal said.
A Ministry of Tourism delegation visited Rostaing in hospital and gave him an all-inclusive, weeklong trip to Preah Sihanouk province and free plane tickets to Bangkok for his return home, said Tith Chantha, director-general of the ministry’s tourism department.
“We pay attention to our tourists, so we met his demands,” he said of the gifts given to the wounded man.
Following Monday’s shooting in Banlung, some are now concerned that rising crime in Ratanakkiri could affect tourism numbers, which have also been rising as access to the northeast has improved.
Provincial tourism department statistics show that more than 104,000 tourists visited the province in 2008, a 12 percent increase from 2007.
“All tourists—not just foreigners but local tourists also—depend on local authorities to keep them safe,” said Chhea Somaly, owner of the Chheng Lok hotel where the Rostaings stayed Sunday night.
“We depend on this sector. If it is hit, what can we do to live?” she added.
Although one shooting of a foreign tourist cannot bring down the tourism industry nationwide, it could have an impact locally, said Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents.
“If this case is related to robbery, it can really affect the tourism sector there,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Isabelle Roughol)