I am writing in response to the article "City authorities ban samurai swords after upswing in violence" (June 22, 2009). Police say the swords, widely available in the capital, are the weapon of choice for student gangs, and have featured in recent brutal attacks.
I do agree with city authorities in prohibiting the sale of samurai swords in Cambodia's markets. Swords have been used to commit crimes and inflict severe or fatal injuries. However, there are six main approaches to respond effectively to gang violence.
First, we must eliminate the culture of impunity that allows rich and powerful people to live outside the law. In the past, Prime Minister Hun Sen has stated that he would leave office if he were unable to deal with gangsters. He also warned that any government official unable to deal effectively with gang violence would be removed from his or her position. So far, I have not seen anyone removed from office on these conditions.
Second, Cambodian youths learn violent behaviour in part from international films and even locally produced comedies.
Third, the prevalence of domestic violence also reinforces violent approaches to conflict resolution.
Fourth, the Kingdom does not have enough recreational outlets or government-sponsored programs and activity centres to provide outlets for young people, particularly in the areas of athletics, art and music.
Fifth, drugs are easily accessible and contribute to a culture of violence, leading rival gangs to fight over territory and profits.
Lastly, there are many donor-funded organisations that focus broadly on education, health and youth leadership. But there are very few NGOs that work exclusively on community safety and youth-oriented violence, particularly among Cambodia's middle- and upper-class youth.
I hope that a balanced approach as outlined above might help the government deal more effectively with gang-related violence and get closer to eliminating violence in Cambodian society.
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The views expressed above are solely the author's and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.