The total number of serious and minor crimes in Cambodia increased by 1 percent, or 27 cases, in 2013 compared to the previous year, while Phnom Penh’s crime rate rose by 62 percent, a report released by the Interior Ministry on Tuesday says—laying the blame for the increase on the opposition CNRP.
There were 790 recorded felonies, which include murder, rape and aggravated theft, in 2013, a decrease of 48 cases from 2012. Misdemeanors, which include fraud, theft and sexual abuse numbered 1,926 in 2013, an increase of 75 cases, or 3.8 percent, on 2012.
In Phnom Penh there were 775 crimes reported last year, up 62.4 percent from 477 in 2012.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak attributed the spike in crimes in the capital to the mass protests organized by the opposition CNRP over alleged voting irregularities in the July national election, and December’s garment worker strikes seeking a doubling of the minimum wage.
“The majority of penal crimes happened in Phnom Penh because our forces focused on maintaining political security and public order, which gave opportunists the time to commit crimes,” Mr. Sopheak said.
“In 2013, Cambodia was met with many events…including demonstrations, strikes, and protests in Phnom Penh and other provinces that led to the Cambodia National Rescue Party, unions and associations affecting the peace, public order, people’s lives and the national economy,” the report says.
“Even though in 2013 Cambodia was met with difficult and complex circumstances that challenged social security, we still worked hard to keep the peace, national security and society in good order,” the report continues.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said last year’s protests would not have turned violent had it not been for state forces’ harsh suppression of what began as a peaceful protest.
“The demonstrations were peaceful, as we respect the law and the will of the people. It is the CPP who is responsible for the problem during the election. We have done nothing wrong. And the crimes [detailed in the report] were committed by the armed forces under the direction of the CPP, which is responsible for the deaths of people.”
(Additional reporting by George Styllis)