Opposition Calls for Illicit Firearm Crackdown

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay has written to the co-Min­is­ters of Interior requesting police ac­tion against illicit firearm tra­ders, in­cluding those who he said were operating at the military surplus market in Toek Thla commune in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district.

In a letter dated Monday, Son Chhay informed Sar Kheng and Prince Norodom Sirivudh that the trade is continuing, and singled out the surplus market, a maze of stalls of­fering everything from bullets to me­dals from various regional militaries.

“I am requesting a crackdown on selling illegal weapons in Toek Thla market and other areas,” he wrote. “There is still the selling of illegal weapons again and again.”

Khieu Sopheak, Interior Min­is­try spokesman, said he has not heard of any weapons trading at the market “for many years now,” but added that it was possible that low-level weapon sales could still be taking place.

“There are still some minor activities that need to be taken care of,” Khieu Sopheak said.

On Thursday afternoon, re­por­ters visiting the market were offer­ed an array of old Soviet bullets that mer­chants claimed were still good, which were on sale for 1,000 riel each.

However, all vendors questioned said they had no guns or grenades for sale.

Ly Lay, Russei Keo district police chief, said authorities are considering raiding the market.

“Our police are still concerned about illegal military weapons in the Toek Thla commune market,” he said. “If there is a mushrooming [level of] illegal weapons and am­­mu­nition selling, we will have to do a raid again in the near future.”

Tiena Saman, of the nonprofit or­ganization Working Group for Wea­pons Reduction, said that it’s likely that the weapons black market in Cambodia is taking place among criminals meeting briefly in coffee shops or similar locations—not at a public market.

“Because of the strict measures of the government, there is no selling or exchanging of weapons in the public space,” he said.

Khieu Sopheak stressed that the country’s longstanding wea­pons-reduction program has de­stroyed more than 160,000 fire­arms in “Flame of Peace” public ceremo­nies since the government tightened up the rules for the licensing and use of weapons in the late 1990s.



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