Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun has reiterated his determination to ensure public safety and security in the province, with a particular focus on gun control.

Chamroeun took to social media on March 4 to emphasise his commitment, following the arrest of three suspects for the trafficking of illegal firearms.

“Anyone who is considering dealing in illegal weapons should prepare themselves for punishment. We are committed to defending the safety and security of the Kingdom, and will take action against any individual who violates the law,” he said.

Kheang Phearom, spokesman for the provincial administration, said the three suspects alleged to be involved in the firearms trade are currently being investigated, but declined to comment any further on the case.

Am Sam Ath, operations director at rights group LICADHO, encouraged more serious gun control measures, adding that he still considered the current situation too lax.

While he accepted that the police have cracked down on the illegal use of firearms, he was concerned that unlicensed weapons still posed a threat to the safety of the general public, and society in general.

“We have strict gun control laws, but the implementation of them appears to be loose, which has enabled some foreigners to come into the possession of guns, and sometimes use them in the commission of crimes,” he said.

Ministry of Interior spokesperson Touch Sokhak refuted Sam Ath’s claims, noting that the capital and provincial police regularly enforce gun control laws, such as through the searching of vehicles for illegal firearms during checkpoint inspections.

“We see this campaign as effective, and it will continue. Along with this measure, our specialised police forces are also investigating cases of the illegal possession of guns. They will take timely action against any individual determined to be in possession of a banned weapon, regardless of their nationality,” he said.

In recent months, Prime Minister Hun Manet called for a focus on public security in Preah Sihanouk in an effort to revitalise the coastal province, which saw a fast-growing economy prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. He ordered the closure of all private shooting ranges in the province.