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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM steps in on public use of weapons

PM steps in on public use of weapons

20120922_03
Prime Minister Hun Sen pictured during his speech, Sept.20, 2012, in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

Speaking to a scenario all too familiar in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen told provincial governors yesterday that powerful officials and their friends and families must be punished if they fire their guns or wield other weapons in restaurants and other public places.

Tourism and public safety are at stake, the premier said, if authorities turn a blind eye to shootings and other violence – including “samurai” sword fights – involving high-ranking officials or those around them, such as their “gangster” sons.

“I don’t want to hear from media reports any more that a person who opened fire was not arrested because they have a powerful person behind them,” Hun Sen said during a speech about the Kingdom’s 2012-2020 tourism plan.

“There should be no risk to anyone’s life just because they want to eat something with their family and friends,” he added. “But many have to run and escape from groups of gangsters who open fire.”

The Post has reported a number of incidents this year in which police, other government officials or those with powerful connections have allegedly fire guns in crowded beer gardens or restaurants.

In one instance, a member of the premier’s bodyguard unit was questioned for allegedly firing his weapon in a restaurant in the capital’s Dangkor district.

The government has also come under fire for its handling of other violent incidents allegedly involving officials, including the case involving then-Bavet Town Governor Chhouk Bandith, who has been accused of injuring three garment workers when he fired his gun during a protest in February.

In another incident involving someone close to the premier, Bun Sokha, former deputy chief of staff of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, walked free from court in July in ambiguous circumstances after he and three others were filmed beating a man in a hotel in Koh Kong in April.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the prime minister had made numerous calls for such action, but too often his orders were ignored if the accused was a high-ranking official or had connections to powerful people.

“To ensure this directive is effective, authorities at all levels have to cooperate and respect their duties,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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