POLICE have disrupted the activities of some 920 “gangsters” nationwide in the first six months of the year, according to statistics provided by an Interior Ministry official yesterday, continuing a crackdown first ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen in June 2009.
Chea Bunthol, deputy director of the ministry’s Penal Department, said that the number of cases of gangsterism had increased to 332 from 251 during the same period, but that the number of individual gangsters had fallen from 1,434.
“We have actively operated the crackdown on gangsters from across the country,” he said.
“But the crackdown was done in a polite way. We let the gangsters get re-educated up to two times, but if they still ignore our education, they will be sent to court for further investigation straight away.”
A total of 79 cases involving 150 alleged gangsters had been sent to court so far this year, he added.
Asked to explain how police identified gangsters, he said: “We can tell when we see them that they are gangsters, often because they are teenagers riding their bikes very fast, or gathering for drug-taking in guesthouses or other public places. Or there are groups of people using samurai swords in dance celebrations, gambling, not going to school, etc.”
Though Chea Bunthol called the crackdown a “big success”, Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, had a different take.
“We are not so proud that local authorities have cracked down on these 332 cases, because there is no prevention,” he said.
“Local authorities should use their power to give them better educations, employment opportunities and professional training so they can become good citizens.”