Following a nationwide spate of violent gun crime over the past few months, the government has called on City Hall for help in its crackdown on illegal firearms, a problem one Ministry of Interior official laid at the feet of authorities themselves.
Speaking at City Hall’s annual meeting on Friday, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said there had been a rise in armed robberies in provincial areas and stemming the illicit flow of weapons was part of the strategy to tackle the crime.
“Authorities have taken responsible action, and on time in some cases, but some other cases have been not controlled,” he said.
Kheng said the National Police commissioner was currently implementing tighter controls across the country, and called on City Hall to apply the same level of enforcement in Phnom Penh.
The Interior Minister said that after the border dispute with Thailand had settled down gun control had “loosened”, presumably referring to weapons issued along the border making their way into the hands of the general public.
The push to include City Hall in the crackdown follows an announcement earlier last month that stricter gun controls would be enforced.
The crackdown included disallowing police to carry their weapons when off duty, increasing street-level vehicle checks and an audit of weapons licences.
Contacted yesterday, Thun Samorn, director of the Interior Ministry’s department of weapons and explosives, said that “there are too many sources of the weapons”, making them difficult to trace, though the authorities, he maintained, were at least partly to blame for the proliferation of guns.
Police often hold on to their weapons beyond the call of duty, he said, and members of the military will at times pass weapons on to family members, he added.
Many civil servants were also known to carry unregistered weapons, Samorn said, noting that following registration procedures was difficult when dealing with high-level officials.
“Some ministers keep three guns and we don’t know what they use the gun for,” he said, adding that the officials would go over his head to seek approval if his department denied registration.
Am Sam Ath, of the rights group Licadho, said that it was far too easy to buy a gun on Cambodia’s black market and a culture of impunity among Cambodia’s elites had seen gun control get out of hand.
“It is a little bit late for the authorities to take action because many innocent people have died and been injured because of a loss of control over weapons,” he said.
A City Hall spokesperson said yesterday they were convening a meeting with relevant municipal authorities to enforce tougher gun control measures.