University students relate fears for their security and stability in these uncertain times in the capital city
Ask many Cambodian university students today and you will be lucky to hear them say that they feel safe and secure in the own country. Several university students recently interviewed agree that something is amiss in Cambodia’s society.
Eap Navy, 22, a student at Royal University of Law and Economics, says she feels increasingly less secure about where she lives because Cambodia is not as it used to be.
“Before, I wasn’t afraid that crime or robbery would happen to me, but since I’ve heard the number of thefts and burglaries is rising, I’ve started to be more careful and concerned. Sometimes when I arrive home at night, I dare not get out of my car; I will just call my father and wait inside for him to come and get me,” Eap Navy said.
Local newspapers feature frequent daily reports on homicides, robberies, rape cases and traffic accidents, many with gruesome pictures that have changed the perception of some students.
Yin Narin, a second-year student in finance and banking at the Royal University of Law and Economics, is of the opinion that the capital is a lot less safer than most provinces. ‘‘In the city, there are many crimes, robberies, traffic accidents and incidents of theft and cheating,” he said.
“It’s unpredictable, living in the city. Anything can happen. I always keep my eyes wide open for anything bad. Everyone can see crime reports in the newspapers, and it’s getting too much day by day,” said Narin.
“I think crimes mostly exist because of unemployment. We can’t eliminate all of them, but it should be decreasingly quickly or kept to a minimum because of the government’s efforts.” Many have blamed the ineffective and unreliable ways of criminal law enforcement.
“The level of safety in my community is not good because the law is not effective to punish the offender. Some corrupt police work with robbers and let them slip away from jail, which makes the people lose trust in police,” said Ngoeum Phally, 21, from Norton University. She added: ‘‘I normally feel afraid that all forms of crime may occur to me or my family. I’m even frightened that someone may break in to my home while I am asleep.’’ She adds, “It is a good solution if the law is enforced in order to make people feel good towards authority and contribute to prevent the crimes.”
Robbed and fearful for their lives
Ly Soheng, 24, a student at Royal University of Phnom Penh, said he was intimidated by a gang as he was walking home alone at night.
“I was threatened for money and detained by a gang member who had caught me. I did not dare to cry for help and let them flee,” Ly Soheng said.
“Every day, the security of our surroundings is poor, especially when we leave out our belongings such as a motorbike or bicycle – we are afraid of losing them. Cambodia today can’t be compared with Cambodia before the Khmer Rouge,” he added.
Seng Phors, a member of Khmer Language National Committee, has witnessed the social transformation and deterioriation of safety in Cambodia. ‘‘Things aren’t the same and problems have to be resolved as soon as possible,” Seng Phors said.
“In fact, not only university students but the entire country is fearful for their own security because the country is getting less safe and secure. We are entering a stage where young people recognise that there is less security.”
“The old and the young are different. The young don’t have something to compare with, but because of what the older people have gone through – they are affected by their experiences from peace and war. What the children are content with is not the same as the old.”
He believes that the increasing rate of crimes stems from a lack of respect of morality in society.
“Cambodia has gone through so much social change. With developments come complex problems that need to be tackled. The biggest obstacle is the decline and downfall of people’s morality.”
“It’s very difficult to understand and explain why Cambodia’s society has changed from safe to dangerous. I think it’s mostly from the rapid adoption of external influences. It has largely been due to bad effects on Cambodia’s society, something that the media and cinema transmits, and has had deep impact on people.”
Sao Chamhorm, a coordinator at the rights group Licadho, is concerned about the increasing rate of reported crimes. She says she’s most concerned about criminals who have not been brought to court. She is also disturbed by the wave of gruesome and bloody news reports.
“The grim reports only make university students and other Cambodians increasingly worried about their safety, as the culture of impunity is still a serious matter,” she said.
“To make everybody feel secure, the government must tighten their laws, bring culprits to justice and make Cambodia a law-abiding state.”