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Details Emerge in Deadly Abduction, Extortion Bid in Phnom Penh

The Phnom Penh Gendarmerie forces on guard outside a gated community in Sen Sok district's Borey Angkor Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 1, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Phnom Penh Gendarmerie)

Four people were shot dead in a bloody shootout by the Royal Gendarmerie of Cambodia forces on Monday for allegedly attempting to extort a million dollars from a family.

The Phnom Penh Gendarmerie said on its Facebook page that the operation was planned after authorities were made aware of the four individuals' plan to extort a family living in Sen Sok district's Borey Angkor Phnom Penh.

The Gendarmeries said it took four days to plan the operation to capture the four people - who have not been identified.

Eng Hy, a spokesperson at the Phnom Penh Gendarmerie, said that security personnel had to fire back in "self-defense" because the four men were armed.

“The situation was such that the suspects fired at the authorities. Thus, the authorities had to respond in self-defense and as per the law,” he said.

He did not give any details about the alleged abduction and the authorities' response, saying he was drafting a report.

Photos posted by the Gendarmerie showed the gunned down suspects dead and laying next to an AK-47. After the operation, the Facebook post also showed an ID card belonging to one of the deceased, but VOA was unable to verify the origins of these posts.

They named one of the four individuals, Im Sovannarith, with an alleged Bodyguard Unit ID card. Eng Hy said the elite Bodyguard Unit had denied that "Im Sovannarith" was an employee on their force.

Roth Sreang, the head of the Phnom Penh Gendarmerie, posted on his Facebook page that the mastermind of the abduction attempt was Im Sovannrith, who was a chauffeur for the family.

Sreang said Sovannarith had quit his job and when he asked to come back, the homeowner declined. The men had planned to force the homeowner to write a check for $1 million at gunpoint, according to Roth Sreang.

He added that they planned to take the homeowner's daughter hostage until the check is cleared, after which they would kill everyone in the house.

Seoung Senkarona, the spokesperson for local rights group Adhoc, said it was hard to evaluate if the use of force by the authorities was excessive.

“We see some photos and videos of the perpetrators carrying weapons and that there was a volley of gunfire on the authorities. But we don't see any of the authorities injured from the gunfire," he said.