Accessibility links

Breaking News

Gunmen Storm Cambodian Dental Clinic to Free Chinese Convict

FILE - Five armed men stormed into a dental clinic in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on Aug. 17, 2023, to free a Chinese citizen serving a prison term for drug trafficking, Cambodian police said.
FILE - Five armed men stormed into a dental clinic in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on Aug. 17, 2023, to free a Chinese citizen serving a prison term for drug trafficking, Cambodian police said.

Six suspects were in custody Friday after five armed men stormed into a private dental clinic in Cambodia the day before to free a Chinese convict, Cambodian police said.

The convict, Chen Hsin Han, 45, who was serving a 52-year sentence for drug trafficking, remains at large, said Teng Channath, the Siem Reap provincial police chief. Police did not explain why the suspects in custody outnumbered the people who stormed the clinic.

Four prison guards had escorted the inmate Thursday morning to a dentist in Siem Reap city, according to a prison letter obtained by VOA Khmer and closed-circuit TV footage from the dental facility.

Teng told VOA Khmer by telephone on Thursday that he could not explain how the gunmen knew the inmate was scheduled for a dental appointment. At the time, Teng said he would not release more details because the case remained under investigation.

Chen, who was arrested February 11, 2009, had a toothache that made it difficult for him to eat, according to prison documents obtained by VOA Khmer.

The dental office video showed five people whose faces were covered pointing guns at four prison guards in the clinic. The footage was shared widely on social media.

Soeng Senkaruna, spokesman for local human rights group Adhoc, questioned why the prisoner was allowed to get treatment outside the prison and how the gunmen knew about the time of the treatment.

“The prison officials knew that the prisoner was sentenced to more than 50 years in jail. Thus, they should have been more careful,” he told VOA Khmer.

“There should be an investigation to find out whether there was collusion,” he added.

A 2021 Global Organized Crime Index profile of Cambodia says the country’s “porous borders and corrupt and underdeveloped law enforcement structures” have contributed to drug trafficking. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported that same year that drug lords had established meth labs in Cambodia, far from their traditional base in the Golden Triangle, a lawless area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China intersect.

Chum Chenda, the dental clinic owner, said the gunmen stormed into his business around 8 a.m. He said the armed men tied up police officers' hands and left with the prisoner. There were no gunshots or injuries, he said.

''Criminals had guns in their hands behind the police. They are about one meter away from me. … I pretended to not know anything. When I turned to the police, they [the gunmen] were all gone,'' Chum Chenda told VOA Khmer by telephone on Thursday.

According to government-aligned news outlet Freshnews, the gunmen left the clinic in a Lexus 330 SUV. Police found the vehicle, guns and other related evidence on the outskirts of Siem Reap.

VOA Khmer contacted Da Chamroeun, Siem Reap city police chief, Thursday and Friday. He declined to comment.

Nouth Savna, spokesman for the General Department of Prisons, confirmed the arrests of six people but made no further comments.

“I have only this information. The competent authorities are now investigating further,” he told VOA Khmer on Friday.

Phean Chhorvan, director of the Siem Reap provincial prison, told VOA Khmer on Thursday that he didn’t have clear information about the case.