US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann and his wife were “shaken up” but unharmed after being robbed at gunpoint near their Phnom Penh home last week, the ambassador said Sunday.
This was the first time he’d been robbed, Wiedemann said. “In other places I’ve had bullets flying at me,” he said. “But never armed robbery.”
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara has ordered police to more closely patrol foreign embassies after the Nov 7 robbery, and said Sunday he felt “very sorry.”
Word of the robbery on Street 240 had reached Penal Police Chief Khuon Sophon, but he said Sunday that the incident was only a “snatching” and referred reporters to the minor crime chief.
Chief Ream Sarin, of the minor crime unit, said Sunday that he read about the robbery in a Khmer-language newspaper and he planned to contact the embassy today for confirmation.
Crime in the city increased an “alarming” 35 percent in the third quarter of this year, Interior co-Minister Sar Kheng told donors in October, citing armed robbery as the second most common type of crime.
Chea Sophara has launched a crack-down in recent weeks to curb crime in the capital.
But the stricter stance on crime did no good for Wiedemann and his wife.
The two were less than 50 meters from their Norodom Boulevard residence, walking home from a nearby restaurant around 8 pm when two men wearing civilian clothes on a motorbike rode up quietly behind them, embassy officials said.
One of them jumped off the back, “pulled out an automatic pistol and cocked it in my face,” Wiedemann said. “He said, ‘I’ll kill you. Give me money.’”
The robber became “nervous,” Wiedemann said, and took off with the ambassador’s mobile phone, which had been attached to his belt. His wife’s bag was not taken.
Wiedemann said he reported the incident to the police, and mentioned the incident in a meeting with Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara, who was “quite astounded.”
Chea Sophara said Sunday the ambassador may not have realized the danger he was in.
The ambassador came to his current post only a few months ago. He and his wife did not regularly walk alone, according to a security guard stationed outside the residence, who confirmed the time and place of the robbery.
On Sunday, the ambassador seemed surprised by the robbery.
“I just misjudged,” he said.
He said he has advised his staff to be careful, and not to ride motorbikes at night. (Additional reporting by Phann Ana)