Is Siem Reap experiencing a wave of petty crime? The answer seems to depend on who
you talk to.
One Siem Reap resident says there have been in the past few weeks a lot of petty
thefts and aggressive robberies of expats and tourists. One security company agrees
with him, another doesn't; the city Governor and police commander Chap Nhalyvoud
says there have been a few motorbike thefts, and that public safety in Siem Reap
has never been better protected than right now.
The Siem Reap source, who requested anonymity, said:
"The Cambodge Soir reporter was accosted at night by three men on a small bike
waving a gun at him. He escaped unhurt by turning his lights off and driving away
faster on his big bike.
"An Italian citizen working for an NGO was robbed by men who entered her bedroom
while she slept, threw chloroform at her and escaped with her valuables.
"There was a car robbery in front of the French Cultural Center involving shootings;
and in another incident all the safety deposit boxes of the Angkoriana Hotel were
forced and all valuables taken.
"I am not talking about the usual fishing through windows which has lately dramatically
increased (it happened twice in my house), but serious robberies where expats and
tourists have been targeted," the source said.
"According to a guesthouse owner, there is a gang of around 20, comprising Khmers
from Phnom Penh and Koreans.
"The problem is that the police are involved and always manage to come too late
to the scene and then share the booty later with the thieves.
"Most guest houses and small hotel owners are now very worried. It's bad for
the city and gives a sense of insecurity which until now has not been felt in Siem
Christian Berger, country manager for MPA Security Services International Ltd, said:
"There is a crime wave happening in Siem Reap but it's mainly petty, like cameras
and passports from tourists.
"However, there is a trend towards armed and physically violent robberies which
is a concern.
"This could be due to the rainy season when tourists numbers are down. Poverty
"Because our business tends to be top-end like major hotels, embassies, upmarket
homes, and the airport, we have not experienced an upsurge in business, but we do
know it's happening."
He said a woman woke up to find a robber with a gun in her bedroom, and she became
an MPA customer the next day.
A full-time professional guard could cost $130 to $200 a month. A basic untrained
live-in guard was paid $20 to $30.
Berger said he thought visitors and ex-pat residents could get a false sense of security.
"During the day Siem Reap is a safe place to stroll about, but at night the
dark side comes out and it's wise to be careful. Criminals are more dangerous at
night because they can hide easily and they will take greater risks.
"There are an increasing number of North Koreans starting businesses in Phnom
Penh and Siem Reap and this seems to be having an effect on the crime rate. There
have been a couple of murders."
However, Siem Reap city governor Chap Nhalyvoud, who is also a provincial police
commander, said he was not aware of a crime wave, only people stealing motorbikes.
It was very difficult to investigate because the bikes were not registered, he said.
In Siem Reap province public safety was better than in most other areas "because
we have security and military police and tourist police. Without this security we
would not attract so many major conferences."
Allegations against the police of being involved with the criminals were not true
"because there is no evidence to support it. If the victim produces evidence
I will judge for myself and take action against the police if necessary.
"The main law and order difficulty in Siem Reap today is traffic congestion
and unregistered vehicles, and people simply not knowing rules of the road,"
"So far I haven't been given any information about robbers targeting tourists,
but if tourist victims tell me I will take action very quickly.
"I invite tourists who get robbed, to phone me on 012 842 728, or come to the
municipal hall to meet me directly. If they are afraid, I will drive to meet them
myself and have police guard their accommodation.
"If the tourist doesn't speak out and inform us, we cannot do anything and the
problem could get worse if robbers think they can get away with it. If I let this
happen it damages the national image because it is Cambodia's most important tourist
Seng Pach, Siem Reap deputy director for Protek Security, said the situation in Siem
Reap was stable as usual because there were police and military police providing
security all time.
"In one case last month, thieves stole guest luggage from Angkoriana Hotel.
Siem Reap does not have gangsters like Phnom Penh. It has more security than Phnom
Penh," said Pach.