Hun Sen Warns Officials To Get Tough on Gangs

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned senior government officials Tuesday that if they are unable to combat violent youth gangs they will be replaced.

Hun Sen said that he had re­ceived many complaints about young gangs wreaking havoc and called on authorities to stem the growing problem.

“If you cannot crack down on gangsters, you should not be district governors, provincial governors or police chiefs and military chiefs,” Hun Sen said in a speech in Svay Rieng province that was broadcast on Apsara radio.

“We will allow the gangsters to be district and provincial governors,” he said.

“The gangsters are shaking Phnom Penh, attacking each other with samurai swords…. Hok Lundy, please look at it,” he added, referring to the National Police Commissioner.

Sword-wielding gang attacks in Phnom Penh and shootings and stabbings at weddings and dance parties in the provinces have become commonplace in recent years.

Hok Lundy said by telephone that drugs were at the root of the gang problem and promised to take tough action against gang members by sending those over 18 to prison and re-educating those younger.

Hok Lundy reiterated the prime minister’s threat.

“If police officers cannot control gangsters, they should give their positions to the gangsters,” he said.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the gang problem is becoming unmanageable for police and that broader measures like tackling drugs and gambling are needed.

The children of the rich and powerful are responsible for creating the gangs and ordinary police officers are unable to touch such people, he said.

“When you look into these gang leaders the gangs were created by the sons of senior leaders-governors or police officials,” Son Chhay said, adding that the current system is unable deal with the children of the powerful.

“It is important for the prime minister to look at the core of the problem instead of blaming officials,” he added.

Mak Sarath, coordinator of the Youth Council of Cambodia, said that prison and re-education are not the answers. Instead the government should focus on giving Cambodia’s young people options for the future such as vocational training and jobs, he said.

“The youth don’t want to be gangsters if they have employment,” he said. “It is the government’s failure because the authorities cannot decrease the amount of gangsters.”

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