Four Mondulkiri mines and energy officials and nine provincial military police officers were confronted by an angry mob of 200 armed villagers allegedly mobilised by a soldier and his wife when the officials showed up to crack down on an illegal gold mining site, an official said yesterday.
The ordeal took place at about 2am on Saturday, and sent the officials running for safety while they called for backup, said San Sarith, director of the Mondulkiri Department of Mines and Energy, who was part of the crackdown team.
According to Sarith and a copy of the police report, the operation in Keo Seima district led to the arrest of four suspects: excavator drivers Yem Tha and Moung Sophanha; excavator owner So Mana; and Sam Yet, the owner of the site and wife of soldier Yu Sam Mech, of the Regiment 1 military base in the province. However, Tha managed to escape after being arrested. Sarith claimed Sam Mech, who fled the scene, had hired the group to carry out the illegal gold-mining activities, but now his arrest would be determined by the court.
“Those people were [armed] with axes, cleavers and gasoline bottles,” he said, adding that they threatened to burn the officials’ vehicle.
The mob became angry when officials attempted to remove their excavator, which they only managed to haul for 4 kilometres before having to wait for backup to arrive, Sarith said.
An additional 50 military police were requested from Kratie and Ratanakkiri, and arrived at about 5am, when the four suspects were apprehended, he said. Suspects Yet, Mana and Sophanha were sent to court on Saturday night, Sarith said.
However, San Sopheak, Mondulkiri prosecutor for this case, said yesterday that he still hadn’t received the full documentation for this case yet.