Violence, Drinking, Theft Up in Banteay Meanchey Due to Pandemic: Police

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Banteay Meanchey police conduct traffic checks in a photo posted to the force’s Facebook page in July.
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Crimes are up 18 percent in the first eight months of the year in Banteay Meanchey as drunkenness, violence and theft have risen with Covid-19 hitting hard in the Thai-border province, the provincial police chief said.

Sithy Lot said the rise was seen in relatively petty incidents amid frustrations and discontent.

“You already know that with Covid, they have been locked down, so some of them are not happy, so they cannot control their emotions. They go eat outside and are beaten. This is normal in our society,” Lot said.

“They drink wine and they commit violence.”

Authorities had nevertheless maintained public order as the incidents were isolated, he said.

“We are doing good. It’s OK. There have been a few violent crimes, assaults, there have been a few thefts and robberies and violent drinking.”

Sum Chankea, coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Banteay Meanchey said villagers had expressed concern about the increase in violence.

He said he hoped police would put efforts into prevention.

“The role of judicial police officers is to investigate and … prevent and crack down on crime as much as possible,” Chankea said.

Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand have struggled with the Delta surge there that has led to factory closures and lockdowns. As many as 15,000 Cambodian migrants have returned since August 22, according to the International Organization for Migration, and 100,000 are expected in the next six months.

Those who have returned have spoken of lack of opportunities and concerns about ending up back in the debt-ridden challenges to their livelihoods they had left the country trying to escape.

“We want to run a business, but we do not have the capital,” one returnee said last month.

“I’m worried about everything,” she said. “We came [back] with no money, and were placed in quarantine for over a month. We didn’t earn anything.”

People across the country have been reported as struggling with finances amid the pandemic. In May and June, about 400 garment workers surveyed by the U.N. said personal finances, including not being able to pay back loans, was their most common concern. Civil society groups said in June that they were concerned about “the rise of new debt to solve the problems of daily life.”

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