Officials cite increased use of plastic guns in ‘armed' robberies
Toy guns, freely available in city markets, have been banned by authorities.
CITY authorities have banned the sale of plastic guns in markets following the kidnap and ransom of a senior military officer's teenage daughter in Siem Reap last week, according to police.
Has Phearum, Phnom Penh's public order police chief, said the suspects in the Siem Reap case had used plastic guns to carry out the kidnapping, as had the perpetrators of other recent crimes.
"We are strictly enforcing this ban and will punish those vendors if they don't listen to us," he said.
"In the past Phnom Penh has suffered from crimes involving plastic guns, so we must ensure this doesn't happen again."
Ky Phally, a police officer who controls security around the Olympic Market, said police had confiscated more than 400 plastic guns at eight markets and deposited them at the city's central police station.
Vendors were not amused. Chhay Leang, who has a stall at the Olympic Market, doubted it would make any difference to national security. She said the confiscation of her stock, which she imported from Vietnam, had cost her money.
"These guns have no power and can't kill people. The authorities should crack down on the black market that sells real guns," she said.
"These guns are just toys for kids."
The city's police chief, Touch Naruth, insisted that plastic guns could be mistaken for genuine weapons, particularly at night, and said some robbers had taken advantage of that.
"We have collected 436 plastic guns, and on March 17 we will celebrate this by burning all of them at a party," he said.
"As for the vendors, those who don't listen to us will first be brought to our office, but eventually we will send them to court."
The city experienced a drop in crime using real guns in 2008, with officials reporting 128 cases of armed robbery compared to 175 in 2007.
Victims were shot in 42 armed robberies last year, of which 12 died and 41 were injured. In 2007, 23 victims died and 63 were injured in 75 violent armed robberies.