Robbery Suspects Released, Villagers Alarmed

A decision by Kompong Thom Provincial Court to release three armed robbery suspects, including a cattle butcher who claimed to be a bodyguard of Senate Presi­­dent Chea Sim, has taken Baray district policemen and villagers by surprise.

The court’s recent release of the men, who were sent to jail on Feb 16 for allegedly robbing a gasoline merchant at gun point, have left many in the district suspicious of the move, In Mary Vann, Baray district penal police chief, said on Tuesday.

“The victim pointed to the man he saw during the robbery, and police found the same code number on the suspect’s pistol’s bullets—this is ridiculous,” In Mary Vann said.

The robbery victim, So Pheara, accused butcher Prum Chanthan of firing his pistol four or five times during the holdup, and police said they found identical code numbers on the fired shells and on the unused bullets stuffed in the 43-year-old suspect’s pockets.

But Court Prosecutor Huot Hy said Tuesday that his court ac­quitted Prum Chanthan, who ran a slaughterhouse in Chrol­orng commune, and the two other men because strong evidence cleared them in the case.

Huot Hy said several people testified that they were singing karaoke with Prum Chanthan on the night of the robbery and an Interior Ministry analysis of his gun proved that it had not been fired.

“Technically speaking, the court got all the facts that Prum Chanthan was not guilty in the robbery,” he said.

However, Huot Hy said investigations are continuing as to wheth­er Prum Chanthan is a bodyguard of Chea Sim and therefore in legal possession of a fire­arm.

Pen Chan Sokrin, provincial ju­dicial police chief, said that the butcher was not a bodyguard for Chea Sim.

“He only lives in Baray running a cow slaughterhouse,” Pen Chan Sokrin said.

In Mary Vann maintained that Prum Chanthan had previously served time in Kompong Cham prison but had been released early with the help of a court official.

Gasoline merchant So Pheara, who told police he was robbed by one of alleged thieves on a previous occasion, said that he is fright­en­ed the men are now free.

“But this is the court’s decision,” he said.


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