GUNS are replacing study and school books as a key to academic success for some high
School authorities and police say there has been an upsurge in students armed with
hand guns and in some cases grenades to threaten teachers and exam supervisors.
They say the problem is mainly confined to students from wealthy backgrounds who
believe they can act with impunity.
"The students bringing the guns to the school are the sons of the high ranking
and rich men," said Min Kin Lun, the director of Toul Tom Pong high school.
Ly Meng Hout, one of the teachers at Toul Tom Pong, said discontented students have
used guns to threaten his colleagues and other students.
"They show crude attitudes to the teachers when they are disappointed,"
He said during a recent examination a student pulled out a gun and put it on the
table in front of him. He then proceeded to copy out his answers from crib notes.
The teachers ignored him but later failed his exam paper.
Hout said that in general teachers ignore the threats when they occur to avoid confrontation.
"It can cause problems to the other students in the class. They will shoot at
us when we out of the school, or they will hit our motorcycle or point a gun at us,"
Lun said the armed students are cunning and it was hard to catch them. He said they
also realized that most teachers were powerless against them.
"They are like thieves when they see the police and they know which teachers
can seize their guns," he said.
An Education Ministry official said that violence against teachers and supervisors
following exams is not new. But the use of guns is.
He said one exam inspector was severely injured after he was attacked by a student
because he refused to accept a bribe.
One school director spoken to said that he now only allowed students carrying pens
and books into the classroom. If they turned up with guns he said he calls the police.
One student said plainclothed police had recently confiscated two guns off a 12th
grade student at Toul Tom Pong.
"The police stood outside the classroom, and when the students came into class
the police began checking bags. They found one gun in a bag and a second under a
second student's armpit," the pupil said.
He said however that students often returned to harass those who called the police
Lun said in addition to the threats of violence there was a very real danger of an
accident with the guns being carried.
"Students sometimes steal pistols from their parents and bring them into class
and point them at their friends as a joke.
"They have no experience with guns so that is really dangerous to them and their
"When they pull the gun from their wrist belt with their fingers on the trigger
it could easily go off. The bullets will not miss," he said.
Oum Hoeung, director of Education, Youth and Sport in the Municipality of Phnom Penh,
said that the first vice governor of Phnom Penh, Chea Sophara, had ordered police
to look after the schools to which they are closely situated.
Hoeung said not all students carried guns to threaten. Some just wanted to show-off
to their girlfriends.
But he said what was happening in the schools was a reflection of the times. "The
problem in the schools reflects the situation of the society. If the country becomes
peaceful the problem of illegal gun use by students will end."
Meanwhile some students are now moving from threatening teachers to more serious
Kong Saran, Phnom Penh's deputy police commissioner, said some students were involved
in armed robberies and there had been cases of gun battles between rival student
Khan Toul Kok inspector, Khem Run, said that recently three students - Chum Bun Chon,
Both Samnang and Leng Visal - from Antarak Tevy high school were arrested after they
stole 2 million riels, 3,000 baht, $300 and two Domleng of gold from a gold
dealer. During the robbery they fired two shots from a K59 pistol but both missed.
Run said that the three were arrested near the school.
He said that police are now taking a tough stance with the armed students.
"When we arrest them we have to send them to court, even if they have a gun
license, because they are students so they have no authority to use guns," he
However, one Toul Kok police officer said he was worried about the court's lenient
attitude towards student offenders.
He said when he arrested Leng Visal the court immediately released him.
Cambodia's problem with armed students is not confined to high schools - a primary
school director who did not want to be named said he had been threatened at gun point
by one of his pupils. He said the threat followed his banning of Bong Thom
(Big Brother) gang members from the primary school.