The number of crimes committed in Cambodia increased last year because authorities were busy dealing with repeated protests and strikes, the Ministry of Interior claimed in its 2014 annual report, which was presented at its annual meeting Monday.
According to the report, authorities dealt with 2,814 criminal cases in 2014, compared to 2,709 in 2013. It attributed the rise in crime to street protests, despite the fact that a government ban on demonstrations was in effect for over half the year.
“In 2014, crime slightly increased [compared to 2013] because there was an increase in the number of protests and strikes and police were therefore busy in patrolling the strikes and protests,” the report says. “The strikes and the protests were regarding the  election results…protests to demand [a higher] minimum wage, [and] land issues.”
In early January last year, military police killed five striking workers and injured more than 40 others in a crackdown on a series of escalating street protests by garment workers and opposition supporters. This was followed by a blanket ban on public demonstrations that lasted until after a political deal was struck between the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP in July.
The Interior Ministry report says there were 2,439 protests and strikes in 2014—an average of more than six per day—but did not provide comparative statistics for 2013 or define its threshold for what constitutes a protest. Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.
“Some groups incited and attempted to cause violence and turmoil in society and therefore authorities paid attention to controlling and preventing these incidents, so it created a loophole for criminals to have a chance to commit crimes,” the report says.
The Interior Ministry also reported an increase in traffic accidents and deaths in 2014 compared to 2013.
In 2013, there were 4,322 traffic accidents that resulted in 1,901 fatalities, compared to 4,840 accidents and 2,148 deaths in 2014, the report says.