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Police pose for a photo with homemade rifles in Kampong Svay district
Police pose for a photo with homemade rifles in Kampong Svay district earlier this week after a safety initiative encouraged residents to voluntarily hand over the weapons. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Welcome to the gun show

Villagers from three districts in Kampong Thom province have turned over more than 300 homemade guns to authorities after a local safety initiative was introduced that encouraged residents to hand over their weapons.

Lim Hen, Kampong Thom provincial deputy police chief, said yesterday that beginning last week, the weapons, along with a cache of bullets and projectiles, had been delivered to officials in Santuk, Kampong Svay and Prasat Balang districts.

“It is the result of our promotion, so villagers voluntarily gave them to us. It is participation in keeping security in each location,” Hen said.

Pictures posted on the National Police website show weapons crafted of wood and iron that look similar to extra-long versions of old hunting rifles.

The majority of the guns came from Santuk district villagers within a seven-commune area, while Kampong Svay and Prasat Balang residents accounted for the remainder, said Hen, adding that the arms were used for hunting and personal security, and are capable of firing a variety of projectiles.

“The weapons can be used to kill people and animals … an illegal act. Therefore, it is a good practice to give them to the authorities. Anyway, some of them are still out there, but we hope that we will get more,” Hen said.

Private gun ownership has been banned since 1999, and under Article 490 of the criminal code, carrying or transporting a weapon outside of the home is punishable by up to three years in prison and up to 6 million riel ($1,500) in fines.

A “weapon” refers to any gun that can be used to “kill or injure persons or damage property”.

Mai Mort, Pra Huoth village chief and deputy chief of a local forest community group in Prasat Balang district, said more than 10 villagers in his village had decided to stop using the homemade guns, but others were still holding on to theirs.

Pich Khal, Santuk district police chief, said the weapons were surrendered after officials educated the villagers about the law, but that many were holding on to them because they were afraid they would be arrested. Khal said they were not “real weapons”.

Khal said he could remember one instance in the past seven years of a homemade gun being used on a person, and that it was during a domestic dispute.

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