Expat Bar Owners Raise Security Concerns

Following last week’s killing of a well-known Western bar owner, a num­­ber of Phnom Penh expatriates in the same line of work said Sun­­day that they had little faith in the mu­ni­cipal police, and that they re­lied instead on private security guards for their protection.

“Most bars should have their own security guards. That’s a must-have as far as I’m concerned,” said David Chan­nell, president of the Res­tau­rant and Pub Operators As­sociation of Cambodia and the former owner of Goochi bar on Siha­nouk Boule­vard. “There aren’t enough police in Cam­bodia to do the job,” Channell said. “You have to police your own business.”

David Mitchell, the British own­er of the Ginger Monkey bar, was stab­bed to death at his apartment near the bar on Wednesday. Tong Chen, 18, a homeless man, was charged Fri­­day with his premeditated killing. Mitch­ell’s girlfriend, New Zealand na­­­tional Jane Nye, who was seriously wounded in the at­tack, is recovering in Bangkok.

The attack followed a series of events that have struck at the public image of the police. In recent weeks, a series of municipal police of­ficials have been arrested for allegedly beating a suspect to death in police custody, assassinating judge Sok Sethamony in 2003 and at­tempting to kill both National Military Police Com­mander Sao Sokha and Muni­ci­pal Court Chief Prosecutor Ouk Sa­vouth.

Frits Mulder, owner of Frizz res­taurant on Sisowath Quay, said he had little confidence in the police, who he characterized as “quite du­bious.”

“I think police don’t do a lot ex­cept for when there’s money around. Otherwise, they’re not do­ing anything about crime,” he said. He added that he employs no security guards and has never had an in­ci­dent in his two years in Phnom Penh.

Asked what he would do in an emergency, Mulder replied: “Good question. I don’t know.”

Rory Barry, the owner of Rory’s Pub, which is on the same street as the Ginger Monkey, said that in an emer­gency he would turn to a security firm. “I have one guard all night. That’s all you need. If there are prob­lems, they have quick backup service,” said Barry, an Irish national.

He added that more municipal re­sources should be set aside for muni­cipal police. “Police just say they don’t get paid enough to risk their lives…I can understand that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a bad idea to pay some bunch of them more to pat­rol at night.”

Although police were able to ap­pre­hend Tong Chen within hours of the killing, Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth ac­knowl­edged that re­­sources are generally limited.

“We cannot patrol all the streets, be­­­cause there are many streets,” he said, adding that the public need to take sensible precautions. “People themselves should be careful and lock their doors when sleeping,” he said.

Christian Berger, Managing Director of MPA International Ltd, Cam­bodia’s largest security company, wrote in an e-mail that he em­pathized with Touch Naruth, add­ing that police and security officers have the same objectives. “I don’t think it’s a question of who you ‘trust’ more, but that the two are working together,” he wrote.

“The police will do their jobs with the resources they have. But when you consider that the average police salary in Cam­bodia is less than a garment factory worker’s, you have to stop and think.”

   (Additional reporting by Van Roeun)



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