More gangs are showing up on Phnom Penh’s streets after dark. And like young men sometimes do, they are fighting over women, police officials said Wednesday.
Around midnight Monday a truck full of 22 youths from Kien Svay district, Kandal province, who were armed with knives and bludgeons, pulled up to a park near Independence Monument looking to settle a debt, Kien Svay Police Chief Mang Pich said.
Several nights before, some of their party had gone to hire prostitutes, when the young women’s pimp allegedly ran off with the $10 fee. A Phnom Penh gang defended the sex workers, who did not want to provide free services, police said. Monday night, the Kien Svay boys had revenge and later found themselves in jail.
Friday in Dangkao district, two gangs vying for the attention of girls clashed at a wedding dance in Chaom Chao commune, said Dangkao Police Chief Mom Savat.
“In my area there are many garment workers. It is hard to provide security. They are from the countryside and they make the local gangster youths jealous when they get together for fun and dancing. There is always fighting at these events,” Mom Savat said.
The police officials said that in most cases these youths, usually students, are held until their parents come to pick them up. The police take mug shots and let them go.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith conceded Monday that street crime has increased as law enforcement has gone slack after November’s Asean Summit. He said police will crack down soon, but only once they have received new motorcycles so they can chase down gangsters.
Chan Sok, a 27-year-old motorcycle taxi driver, said he did not blame the police. “The police are paid too little. It’s not worth it for police to fight [criminals]. If they die, no one will take care of their families,” he said.
Police officers from all the city districts agreed that street crime is on the rise but most declined to explain why, saying the Ministry of Interior prohibits them from speaking to people outside the force about police matters.