Interior Minister Urges Crackdown on Sihanoukville Crime

3 min read
Interior Minister Sar Kheng attends a ministry meeting on February 2, 2022. (Sar Kheng’s Facebook page)

Interior Minister Sar Kheng said he wasn’t supposed to be presiding over Preah Sihanouk province’s annual meeting this week. But issues of order and security — which “continue to happen endlessly” — compelled him to attend.

At the Wednesday meeting, video of which was posted by Kheng, the interior minister pointed to kidnappings, robberies, homicides, torture and drug crimes, and said such crimes needed to be stamped out before commune elections in June.

Provincial police send him updates on crimes, and they are “brutal,” he said.

“Sometimes, I don’t want to look at it, but it’s unavoidable — I need to check it. The pictures are very brutal, and these kinds of things are being disseminated overseas to the whole world, that Cambodia is very bad, with robberies, kidnappings, threats, violence all over the place,” Kheng said. “It is not only about [Preah] Sihanouk’s reputation.”

He was not supposed to be presiding over the meeting, but “there was a specific point that required me to come join.”

Security and order issues, especially crimes, continue to happen endlessly, and these issues have a bad impact on the reputation of our Sihanouk province,” he said.

Kheng said that if there was media exaggeration, “without clear clarifications, this news can become the truth that they believe.”

Last month, a victim of forced labor said his blood was harvested after refusing to work. National Police later said that it had investigated and decided the story was a fabrication. This week, Thai police told of another alleged blood-harvesting victim, which Cambodian police laughed off.

Kheng added that cooperation with Chinese police had been discussed in the past, but the talks stalled because Chinese authorities wanted to make their own arrests in Cambodia.

“We disagreed with each other: They asked to arrest them — not only that they provide information, but they come to arrest,” he said. “What we wanted was that we wanted them to provide information like warrants and documents and any targets that they know to be perpetrators and we support and arrest them like we do currently — this is what we want.”

“It is relevant to sovereignty, and if we give this [right] to the Chinese, we would need to give it to other countries.”

“We all, together, [need to be] committed to end this issue of crimes that occur in Sihanouk province,” Kheng said. “This is our commitment … before the commune election, we need to somehow work hard to end this, and even if it is not 100 percent, prevent the majority cases because we have seen that it is very brutal.”

Preah Sihanouk governor Kouch Chamrouen said a recent security meeting had identified three key justice issues.

“Firstly, the continuing crimes of kidnapping, illegal detention and armed violence. Secondly, the disseminations of media outlets and social media that fabricate and exaggerate information. Thirdly, the enemy force that continues to suppress and come down hard to darken the government and provincial administration’s honor and reputation,” Chamroeun said.

National Police would work with Finance Minister Aun Pornmoniroth to manage gambling businesses, while the immigration department would work to combat human trafficking.

The provincial administration would set up a Chinese-language information team to clarify the truth to Chinese speakers, and meet regularly with Chinese associations.

It would also ask the court for harsh sentences against illegal weapon possession, drug trafficking, murder, human trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, Chamroeun said.

Provincial council president So Chunghour issued statistics that crime had plunged in 2021, including an 18 percent reduction in felonies and 48 percent drop in human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

According to local media reports from the first two months of the year, Preah Sihanouk saw at least two handcuffed bodies found, at least five shootings and homicides, and six arrests for kidnapping.

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