Banteay Meanchey province military police on Wednesday shaved the heads of nine men, all in their 20s, who were accused of attacking each other in a gang fight early Wednesday morning, a military police official said.
A group of four, who possessed a homemade gun, brawled with a group of five, who possessed a machete, in Serei Saophoan district’s O’Ambel commune on National Road 6, said Or Borin, deputy provincial military police commander.
Shaving the heads of young people who misbehave is a way for military police to preserve order, not a violation of their rights, he said.
“The gang youths love their hair. When we shave their hair they will be ashamed, and they will not cause the problems again,” he said. “It does not break the law that we shave their hair. It does not violate human rights. If we beat or torture them, that breaks the law.”
Military police released several of the men from the provincial rehabilitation center after their parents signed pledges that their children will not misbehave, he said.
Suon Chankea, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said crackdowns on youth gangs have reduced violence but the military police have abused their power.
At times police have required bribes for the release of detainees including motorbike taxi drivers who were merely found to be working at night, he said.
“Shaving hair is not a warning, but it just shows the power of the armed forces. If [youths] commit crimes they should send them to court to prosecute with the law.”
Mr Borin denied that his officers are abusing their power.
In an unrelated incident in nearby Battambang town, an Austrian man and his Cambodian wife were robbed of their passports, camera and money by two gunmen, said deputy provincial police chief Chea Thun.
Johan Boukhari, 36, and his wife, whose name was not available, were walking in the city’s historic business district when confronted by the men who threatened to shoot them.
“We are investigating this in order to make an arrest as soon as possible,” he said.