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Alleged Cambodian Thieves Killed

May 31, 1999

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ Two alleged thieves were bludgeoned to death today by an angry mob inside a Buddhist monastery.

Monks living at the Wat Botum pagoda in central Phnom Penh awoke before dawn to gunshots and ran outside to see a mob of 100 university students beating two young men accused of stealing a motorcycle inside the temple grounds.

``It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a lynch mob situation,″ said Tom Flint, one of two American monks at the temple. ``There was cheering. It was like animals over a kill _ barbaric violence out of control.″

Students and the poor are often allowed to live in Cambodian pagodas if they cannot afford their own lodging.

Vira Avalokita, a 55-year-old monk from Seattle, complained that the ``college student squatters″ at Wat Botum were so numerous that the sanctity of the pagoda was threatened.

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