banlung, Ratanakkiri province – Police in Mondolkiri province have captured two of the bandits accused of slaughtering 14 Jarai villagers last week, according to reports of a meeting here where the provincial governor and the vice police chief appraised NGOs in the area of the situation.
But it remains unclear how many of the original band are still at large, or where they are, said Min Muny, the provincial program manager of Carere in Banlung, who was at the Friday meeting. Police here believe that at least seven of the bandits who were involved in the killings are still free, Min Muny said.
The first suspect authorities captured after the July 8 killings was beaten to death by an angry mob, which allegedly overpowered a group of policemen in O’Ya-daw district where the murders took place, officials reported last week.
Ka Yom, vice police chief in Banlung, said at the meeting Friday that police ambushed some of the bandits Wednesday night when they prepared to cook dinner on the banks of the Srei Po River, according to Min Muny. They captured two men and six weapons. At least three bandits escaped with one gun. He said seven total may be at large.
Ka Yom also recommended that all NGOs temporarily pull out of the districts of Kon Mom and Lumphat, where the rest of the bandits are believed to be hiding. Police are supposedly deployed throughout the area, but are particularly monitoring Kon Mom, where it is believed that relatives of the bandits live.
A travel ban has been placed over those areas, and travel throughout the province of Ratanakkiri is recommended only with an armed police escort, Second Vice Governor Bun Haum Oun Many said at Friday’s meeting—a recommendation seconded by NGO workers in Banlung.
According to Min Muny, the second vice governor described at Friday’s meeting what authorities believe transpired on the road in O’Ya-daw. He believes that the bandits entered Ratanakkiri to rob shipments of cigarettes heading for Vietnam along Road 19. They apparently also hoped to kidnap businessmen of the Hero logging company to hold for ransom.
When the bandits got lost, authorities believed they held 14 Jarai men and women as guides. It is believed that the killings occurred as a result of cultural misunderstanding between the bandits, who police claim are ex-Khmer Rouge guerrillas, and the hill tribesmen who became their hostages.
“I believe it,” said Min Muny. “We work with the hill tribes and they don’t give respect in the same way. First of all, they do not beg for life. They simply cannot do that, like Khmer people do.”
He agrees with the Ka Yam’s assessment that they perhaps did not follow the robbers’ orders to satisfaction, giving indirect and not immediate answers, as is their custom.
Jay Jordan, a representative from the Cambodia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, arrived on Sunday to look into the murders in O’Ya-daw district, and the alleged mob killing of the captured bandit. He may talk to family members of the dead.
in the villages of Daw, Tham, and A’lom.