Following a meeting at the Justice Ministry held in the wake of a recent spate of violent armed robberies across Cambodia, officials on Tuesday conceded that they were unable to control the use of illegal weapons in the country.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting of more than 100 judicial, police and military police officials, Deputy National Police Commissioner Mok Chito said while his forces had no trouble controlling legally registered firearms, they could not keep track of illegal weapons.
“Weapons control involves some complicated problems. I’m telling the truth: We control the weapons of our units and we control the legal weapons, but for illegal weapons, we cannot control them,” Lieutenant General Chito said, adding that the National Police were working to fix the problem.
He also noted that unregistered firearms were not only used by criminals.
“We do not say they are only for thieves, but even civil servants and some private individuals are also using illegal weapons,” he said.
In recent weeks, Cambodia has experienced a spate of brazen armed robberies that have left a number of people dead and injured, with bandits—often brandishing pistols and assault rifles—targeting late-model motorbikes, jewelry and cash.
While a handful of suspects have been arrested, Deputy National Military Police Commander Hong Vinol said it was unclear where they had obtained their weapons.
“The suspects always say they got them from their friends Mr. A or Mr. B,” Major General Vinol said.
Lt. Gen. Chito told reporters that despite the recent uptick in armed robberies, the country was actually witnessing a downward trend in overall crime.
“We recognize that recently, a lot of criminal cases have occurred, but the number of crimes has decreased, if we compare with last year,” he said.
“It has decreased about 14 percent if we compare it between this year and 2014,” he added, without offering any absolute figures.