Police late Tuesday staged two late-night raids on Phnom Penh hotels in an effort to intercept teen-agers who they believe may be contributing to the recent wave of crimes against foreigners.
Thirty teens, including suspected gang members, bar girls and prostitutes, were swept out of Soriya Thmei Hotel in Don Penh district and Barkhara Hotel in Chamkar Mon district around midnight, police said Thursday.
The group, aged 14 to 18 and including six females, were detained and subjected to “education,” according to Mok Chito, chief of municipal police for foreigners.
Most have been picked up by their parents, although a few still remain in custody, he said.
Mok Chito also said he had contacted a local women’s NGO about taking into custody one of the girls, who he said is an orphan and has gone into prostitution.
The teen-age boys frequent Phnom Penh’s nightclubs and discos and check in late at night to area hotels accompanied by bar girls and prostitutes, police officials said.
“I am staging a war against the gangs of vagrant boys who are now increasing in numbers,” Mok Chito said. “Youth is the bamboo for the foundation of the nation. If we do not crack down now, our country will become dishonorable.”
Municipal Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun ordered the sweeps as one of the latest steps in a city crackdown on crime. A recent wave of kidnappings of ethnic Chinese businessman and muggings of Westerners was largely blamed on the teen-age gangs, police said.
The gangs are often comprised of boys from wealthy families.
Mok Chito added that the raids were geared to prevent the boys’ activities from leading to more serious crimes, referring in particular a lurid case in March.
The case involved the rape of the wife and niece of a high-ranking government official by nine young men, many of whom are sons of mid-level government officials.
Other measures to crack down include setting up weapons checkpoints, buying back weapons and taking a door-to-door weapons census.