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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bag snatchings jump: EU

Bag snatchings jump: EU

After being presented with statistics showing a more than 100 per cent rise in petty crime against foreigners, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng yesterday called on police officials to look into what’s causing
the problem.

“We will continue to investigate and find the reasons for the allegations of pickpocketing,” Kheng said, alluding to a rash of bag snatchings in which foreign tourists and expatriates have been targeted. He added that European Union representatives had complained.

Nicolas Baudouin, a spokesman for the French Embassy, confirmed that a meeting between Kheng and a group of ambassadors and chargé d’affaires of EU embassies in Cambodia took place last week.

The diplomatic representatives were there to “convey our concerns regarding the increase of petty crimes, typically bag snatching against European citizens either visiting or residing in Cambodia,” Baudouin said.

The figures compiled by EU member states are based on reports of stolen passports following thefts. They show an increase from 139 stolen passports in 2011 to 190 in 2012 then a dramatic leap to 332 last year.

Petty thefts are largely nonviolent, but they sometimes spiral out of control. Last month, police say a man looking to steal a bicycle from a home in Tonle Bassac commune was confronted by UN-Habitat consultant Daphna Beerdsen, whose partner was out of town at the time. Beerdsen was stabbed to death, and her toddler also suffered fatal head wounds.

Kheng said that his “preliminary conclusion” for the spike in low-level crime was a lack of resources, as forces were redirected to maintain order at opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party rallies. He also said that some foreigners may be pretending to lose passports in order to avoid paying invalid visa fees.

Yim Sovann, an opposition spokesman, dismissed Kheng’s first theory.

“I would like to confirm that many police are good, but a small number of police allow the crime to occur and later extort money [from thieves or robbers] because of a small salary,” he said.

Tom Abrahamsson, head of the administrative and consular section at Sweden’s embassy, said that Swedish nationals were among those affected by the spree.

“This has been an upward trend over the past two to three years and especially significant this year,” Abrahamsson said.

In addition to EU concerns, the US Embassy has reported an anecdotal rise in petty theft, according to spokesman Sean McIntosh.

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