Police Try to Dampen Firecrackers, Gunfire

Chinese tradition holds that the new year is a good time to clean house. And, as anyone knows, to scare away any stray ghosts or bad luck hanging around, you need some good, loud firecrackers.

But this year, police in Phnom Penh are trying—with limited success—to put an end to the loud bangs that fill the capital at this time each year.

Frustrated that previous efforts to crack down on the ’crackers failed, Municipal Police this year for the first time banned both selling and using fireworks as part  of a city-wide program launched two weeks ago.

“Firecrackers…can injure people and burn houses,” police officer Men So­cheat explained Mon­day. [We] have warned shop vendors not to sell them anymore.”

The ban covers large fireworks known as “big bangs” and the  more common “little bees.”

The crackdown has had some success so far, Men Socheat said.  “This morning, we seized 40 packs of firecrackers.”

However, a casual listen Mon­day night revealed a cacophony almost anywhere in the capital. The firecrackers were still out there, particularly at 7 pm.

Meanwhile, police Monday were bracing for another new year “tradition”—the hailstorm of bullets resulting from revelers firing weapons into the air.

“What we police are afraid of is that someone firing the gun during Chinese new year will kill somebody,” Men Socheat said, adding it was almost impossible to catch people in the act. “We cannot distinguish the sound of the gunfire and the firecracker.”

A check with shops near Kan­dal market showed no fireworks for sale. But when asked, vendors were able to find firecrackers under their counters and in their handbags.



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