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Gun Control on Target

Gun Control on Target

In a move to curb the lawlessness born of over two decades of civil war and social

strife, the country's main factions, with the exception of the Khmer Rouge, have

agreed on a directive to control the possession of guns, ammunition and explosives.

The directive, which was introduced by the Chief of the United Nations Transitional

Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), Yasushi Akashi, requires owners of weapons to get

a licence from the police force of the relevant ruling faction.

Possession of weapons became illegal as of midnight Mar. 18, the U.N. spokesman Eric

Falt stated. But there would be a three week period of grace, until April 8 to allow

people either to surrender their weapons or to get their papers in order. "Until

that date no penalty will be incurred," he said.

Those who wish to surrender their arms should go to the local UNTAC CivPol or military

contingent where they will be given a receipt for their weapon and will face no legal

action, Falt said. Otherwise, people wishing to retain their arms should apply to

the police force of the relevant authorities for a firearms licence.

"Starting Apr. 9, any person found to hold illegally weapons, explosives or

ammunition would incur the confiscation of these items and imprisonment from six

months to three years," Falt said.

Despite the signing of the peace agreements and the deployment of over 20,000 U.N.

peacekeepers, most Cambodian families still feel threatened by the possibility of

military or bandit attack. And most homes have at least one weapon. Arms markets

exist throughout the country where readily available weapons exchange hands for reasonably

acceptable prices. Second hand AK-47 assault rifles sell for as little as U.S. $40.

Automatic pistols-less lethal but also less obvious and bulky-range from US$100 to

U.S. $200. And, for a few dollars more, one can have a grenade thrown in on top.

Head of UNTAC CivPol Brig. Gen. Klaas Roos has often stated that easy access to weapons

is a major factor aiding the rise in the country's crime problem.

SOC, FUNCINPEC and KPNLF police forces will keep a register of licensed weapons and

their owners, Falt said, adding that they as well as UNTAC would man checkpoints

looking for illegal weapons. "This greatly enhances the possibility of arresting

criminals and reducing the number of weapons in Cambodia," he said.

Falt acknowledged that any previous attempts at weapon control were inadequate.

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