Phnom Penh's chief prosecutor yesterday attributed an alleged rise in Cambodia’s crime rate to an increase in public demonstrations.
Prosecutor general of Phnom Penh Municipal Court Ouk Savuth’s theory came out during a speech he made at a meeting of police and prosecutors held at City Hall on the topic of how police and prosecutors can curb crime.
“According to reports from all provincial and municipal courts, crime has increasingly occurred every year in our country,” Savuth said yesterday. “According to my own observation, I think the reason why the crime rate is increasing each year is because there have been so many demonstrations in Cambodia.”
Giving little in the way of solid data, Savuth proposed that when a large group of people get together in a public space, criminals invariably infiltrate the ranks and cause a ruckus. A report from Phnom Penh Municipal Court says 3,397 cases were brought before the court between the start of the year and November 15.
Savuth did not release figures for the number of reported crimes in years past.
The allegation of political and labour demonstrations being to blame for a heightened crime rate surprised Eang Vuthy, director of rights group Equitable Cambodia.
“This is a very baseless thing to say,” Vuthy said, expressing his disappointment with Savuth’s attitude toward demonstrations.
“This is very one-sided, and he’s supposed to work for the state, he’s not supposed to be working for any political party.”
Police are usually the perpetrators of violence at public demonstrations, Vuthy added, citing a demonstration of striking garment workers in Meanchey district last week that ended with a bystander being shot dead when police opened fire with live ammunition into the crowd of hundreds.
Demonstrators are usually not criminals, Vuthy said, but people with real needs.
“For the garment workers, they demonstrated for better working conditions, better salaries and respect for the worker rights,” Vuthy said. “The people who create problems are the human-rights abusers.”