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City authorities ban samurai swords after upswing in violence

City authorities ban samurai swords after upswing in violence

Police say the swords, widely available in the capital, are the weapon

of choice for student gangs, featuring in recent brutal attacks.

SWORD PLAY

Foreign gangster flicks, particularly Hong Kong triad movies, are being blamed by authorities for the rising popularity of samuri swords among Phnom Penh's youthful thugs. Police call the swords the second-most-deadly weapon on the streets these days after firearms.

SAMURAI swords have been banned from sale at markets across Phnom Penh in a bid to reduce gang violence, municipal authorities said last week. 

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said a recent spate of sword attacks, some of which have been fatal, is forcing authorities to crackdown on the weapon, widely available throughout the capital.

"A sword is not used by people in their homes or on their farms, it is used by Cambodian youths looking to start a fight," he said.

"We have banned them to reduce gang killings, and we will confiscate all swords around the markets in Phnom Penh," he added.

Touch Naruth also said that any factories found to be making the swords could be shut down unless they start producing knives for kitchen-use only.

Chou Makly, a market vendor at Olympic Market who sells swords, said she would be impacted by the ban. But she said that it was not youths or "gangsters" who came to buy swords from her stall.

"My clients come to buy swords for wedding ceremonies because in a Cambodian wedding ceremony they need a sword for the groom," she

said.

"We cannot ignore the authorities, though, and I will stop my sword business to avoid being punished with fines," she added.

Suom Sopheak Na, an 18-year-old student at Sisowath High School, said he welcomed the ban, as he believed the sword had become the

weapon of choice of many student gangs.

"All students groups, when they have a problem with other group, get samurai swords to fight each other, and sometimes they cause serious injury. Often we don't know if they will come and fight us, too," he said.

"I think it will be very positive if authorities can introduce this ban. It will make me feel safer and less scared of student gangs," he said

Touch Naruth said a spike in sword violence had influenced the decision to outlaw the weapon. Last month, police arrested two suspects believed to be part of a group of 12 responsible for slaying Aom Samnang, 22, with samurai swords.

In March, a second-year student at Pannasastra University was severely wounded by two attackers while sitting in front of his house in the city's Tuol Kork district.

"Some gangsters carry them along public roads, and some use them to rob people," Touch Naruth added.

Dangkor district police chief Born Sam Ath said Sunday that he was "ready to comply" with the municipal police order.

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