Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A lot of crime does not a crime wave make

A lot of crime does not a crime wave make

A lot of crime does not a crime wave make

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

Reap."

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

breeds desperation.

"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,"

Nhalyvoud said.

"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

area."

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.

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