Some freshly printed matching T-shirts bearing the slogan “Don’t Scare” and a flaming skull emblem caused Battambang provincial police to mistake a group of would-be pop stars for a posse of could-be gangbangers on Saturday evening.
According to Chet Vanny, deputy chief of the Battambang Provincial Police Commissariat, officers in Ratanak Mondol district arrested 10 young men and eight young women – all of whom were wearing the identical T-shirts in an attempt to promote their new pop group – for fear that they might turn to gang-related crime.
The youths were released yesterday morning, Vanny added, after being “educated” on the dangers of a life of crime, and promising never to wear the tees again.
“They were detained by our police because they wore printed T-shirts with ‘Don’t Scare’ written next to a skull logo and were gathered at a public place in the province,” Vanny said.
“We decided to detain them for education because we are afraid that due to their activities, if they are not educated, they can be gangsters who will create trouble for society in the future,” he continued, adding that the youths and their parents “promised that they will no longer commit” the crime of wearing matching T-shirts.
Upon questioning, however, police learned that the youngsters were drumming up interest in their new pop group, not potential criminal enterprises.
“They said that the reason why they decided to print and wear this T-shirt is that they wanted people to notice them and also easily know them,” he said.
Suon Bunthoeun, project coordinator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said that wearing matching T-shirts – flaming skull logo or no – did not violate the penal code.
“I think that the detention of these youths has violated their rights, because they have not committed any offence; they just wore the T-shirts,” he said, adding that the freedom to wear T-shirts with slogans “was guaranteed by the law”.
The youths could not be reached yesterday.