Proposal Aims to Keep Reins on City Youths

It’s a hotel owner’s nightmare: Two teens show up to rent a room and eight of their closest friends sneak in later, trash the room and disturb the neighbors.

That’s just one of the reasons Mak Minh, hotel manager for the Sonex Hotel on Street 310, no longer allows teens to check in.

A surge in teen-gang crime in Phnom Penh is another.

In response, municipal officials said Thursday that they are preparing a proposal to ban anyone under the age of 18 from entering night clubs, karaoke bars and hotels or guest houses.

Um Hoeung, municipal education chief, said the ban aims to reduce crime and drug use among the city’s youth.

The proposal comes on the heels of a recent wave of violent incidents, one of which included a gang rape of two women by nine men between the ages of 17 and 20 who were later caught in a hotel in Tuol Kok district.

Concern about the increase in  “Bong Thom,” or “Big Brother,” gangs is one factor driving the proposal. In 1997, police identified 55 such groups made up of about 300 young adults. Now, there are 76 groups with about 450 people, said Bith Kimhong, deputy municipal police chief.

“The current increase in the numbers of Bong Thom in Phnom Penh and other provincial towns is spoiling society,” said Chea Sophara, municipal first deputy governor.

NGO representatives present at a meeting with municipal officials Wednesday expressed support for the proposed ban, but raised questions about how it would be enforced.

“We asked how they would clarify between those children that are staying in hotels with their families and those with pedophiles,” said Sok Phanna, director for street children at the NGO Krousar Thmey, “and how they would monitor the hotels and clubs.”

Un Hoeung told NGO representatives that these were issues Chea Sophara would look into.

Chea Sophara’s office is still preparing the proposal, Um Houeng said Thursday, and will submit it to the Council of Ministers soon.

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