sangke district, Battambang province – The armed men come at night to this remote area and demand money and gold, said Hing Ny.
“I have no money to give them. If I had money to give them I would not be worried. Now it is dangerous for me here,” she said. “I am very worried when the night is coming.”
A general increase in robberies in remote areas of the country has people in the countryside worried about their security, said officials from the Ministry of Interior.
Especially in Battambang and Kompong Thom provinces, robbers are too easily preying on unarmed villagers and making off with gold and money, the officials said.
“The Interior Ministry is concerned about the robbery cases,” said Kieng Vang, an Interior Ministry secretary of state. “We held a meeting recently and [National Police Director-General] Hok Lundy is working on this.”
The Interior Ministry ordered a crackdown on petty crime three years ago and every week police are reminded to improve people’s security, but some communes have as few as 10 policemen, said Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
The thieves are also stealing cows and buffalo, a longtime problem in Cambodia, he said.
RCAF soldiers have also reported a general increase in robberies, and will help the relevant authorities crack down on such crimes, said an RCAF general who requested anonymity.
Battambang police chief Heng Chantha said many robbers simply demand rice and food, taking as little as 50,000 riel (about $12.50).
“It is difficult to crack down on them because they are operating in remote areas where there are few police,” Heng Chantha said. “We are already beginning to strengthen security and plan to deploy one police officer in several remote locations with people’s cooperation.”
He said one such police officer was sent to Banan district, Battambang province.
Kompong Thom Governor Nou Phoeung said Tuesday that robberies occur frequently in Baray district. One well-known group of eight bandits are armed with AK-47 rifles and grenades.
“At the end of last month police caught them, killing one and injuring one more when they were robbing people,” Nou Phoeung said.
“From now until May 15, we have a dry season campaign against robbery and bandits to protect security for people’s living and to make business.”
The Interior Ministry reported a general decrease in crime last year, but many parts of the country remain well-armed and desperately poor—both the results of decades of warfare.
Like the Battambang bandits, robbers in other parts of the country—particularly along remote sections of National Route 7—had reportedly been targeting food stores rather than money or other goods.