I am writing in response to your story in The Phnom Penh Post: "Royal mugging raises fears" on Friday, May 8, 2009.
I would say that crimes such as muggings and bag-snatchings happen every day. Many victims not only lose their [valuables], but also suffer serious injury or death when they are pulled from motorbikes. Most of perpetrators are young, middle-class men.
I would like to share my experience from several years of working with and researching the behaviour of middle-class youth in Cambodian society. There are main six factors leading young people become involved in criminal activities:
- They are hopeless over their future, so it's easy for them to fall prey to peer pressure.
- In the last decade, many public places where young people recreated were sold. Now, there is limited space for youth, such as a few parks, the RUPP (Royal University of Phnom Penh) football field and inside the Olympic Stadium. Where do young people play?
- Middle-class youth today are much more materialistic and exposed to beer-gardens, karaoke clubs, bars, nightclubs, discotheques, massage parlours, hotels, guesthouses and brothels, some of which are located next to schools and universities. This leads to a troubled environment which young people come to enjoy rather then go to school. The question has to be asked: Who designs these environments? Young or old people?
- The government and many donors overlook middle-class youth, who are also a high-risk group in society. There are only a few small youth centres run by NGOs through sexual and reproductive health, and life-skills programs . These centres are not enough for middle-class youths.
- Old people prejudge young people negatively after seeing their attitudes, so youths do not allow their elders to give any advice.
- Young people get no warmth from their parents, who are working hard and have much less time to talk with their children; especially some fathers who are enjoying themselves with new things such as another lover. They are not role models for their children. Sometimes parents use rough words and abuse their children, and this leads to broken families.
In order to address these issues, we, at the moment, would greatly appreciate if the government would close down all kinds of gambling establishments to help address the issue of social security.
However, I think the arrest and re-education of youthful offenders is not enough.