Prime Minister Hun Manet has instructed the Ministry of Justice to look into the legal provisions on youth who use swords to commit crimes, while also ordering the provincial governors and all relevant authorities to take strict action against all members of youth gangs.

Manet issued the order as he presided over the launch of the Roadmap towards Global Health Coverage 2024-2035 this morning, May 23. His directions followed a recent uptick in street gang activities in Phnom Penh and in some provinces.

“As the head of the Royal Government, I am issuing orders to the governors of the capital and provinces as well as the relevant authorities to take the most serious measures, especially against the members of anti-social groups that use weapons like samurai swords. Recently, they had a serious brawl in Phnom Penh,” he said.

He told the governors and other authorities to employ strict measures and implement the law strictly, "without clemency or exception". The aim, he said, was to protect public order and security. 

He asked the courts and prosecutor’s offices to strictly enforce the law when dealing with youth offending of this nature. He also reminded parents to continue educating their children, as well as telling the younger members of modern society to refrain from such acts.

“When we enforce the law, please do not blame the government for being strict on young people. We are not trying to hurt anyone, but guiding the young and protecting their lives,” he explained.

In recent weeks, anti-social activities by gangs of youths have been observed in Phnom Penh and several provincial centres.

Ministry of Interior spokesperson Touch Sokhak told The Post today that Manet’s orders should be seen as a motivation for the authorities and police to pursue legal action, in addition to issuing warnings and educating young offenders. 

In addition, he said, it also serves as a final warning. 

“His orders send a bold message. They express the government’s willingness to curb gang activity, and urge youth gangs to cease their anti-social behaviour. If they continue to misbehave, strict enforcement of laws and regulations will be carried out to prevent further anti-social activities,” he added.

He reiterated that Minister of Interior Sar Sokha has often reminded the authorities and local administrations to implement the law and conduct public education to prevent anti-social behaviour. In the past, most youth offenders were reprimanded and issued with warnings, apart from those who committed serious crimes and were dealt with by the judiciary.

“But from now, because this kind of anti-social behaviour is still happening, the prime minister’s orders are absolute. Anyone caught disturbing social order or committing any other crimes will be prosecuted. If their offenses are criminal, whether minor or severe, they will face the full extent of the law,” he said.

According to Sokhak, the number of crimes attributed to youth gangs averaged three to five per week, although some days had seen as many as five incidences of anti-social behaviour reported.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People Center for Development and Peace, believed that to ensure Manet’s instructions are implemented effectively, the overall situation must be carefully considered, as many societal aspects can lead to anti-social behaviour.

“For example, alcohol advertisement hoardings are widely displayed. On some roads, they appear every ten metres or so. This has an impact which outweighs public awareness campaigns and educational measures,” he said.

“As we commute to work in the morning, we see a constant barrage of advertisements which encourage young people to drink alcohol. This motivates them to make poor decisions, leading to anti-social behaviour,” he added.

He urged the government to deal with the issue of alcohol first, by passing laws to regulate alcohol consumption and restrict public advertisements.

“What is also important is for commune council members to invest more in education at the local level, so that people understand the impact of excessive alcohol consumption. The prime minister’s instructions should include telling commune councils to include alcohol control measures in their development plans,” he said, adding that preventing drug use is also crucial.

In addition, he urged young role models to play their part by offering good examples for anti-social youth to follow.