Report Shows Depth of Gun-Related Violence

When men face violence at gun point in Cambodia, their assail­ants usually are strangers, while women are mostly assaulted by people they know and often end up fleeing their villages out of fear of more violence, according to a report being presented at a UN conference in New York on the illegal trade in small arms.

The study by the Working Group for Weapons Reduction, an NGO umbrella organization, paints a bleak picture of threats and violence at gun point that women and children endure on a regular basis in Cambodia.

The working group interviewed 112 people in Banteay Meanchey and Kom­pong Chhnang prov­inces to find out how weap­ons affect their lives.

Interviewers for the group heard tales of land grabbing at gunpoint, kidnapping, extortion, assault and murder. A 9-year-old boy talked about his aunt and himself being kidnapped by men armed with AK-47s and his parents having to pay a $285 ransom. Threat­ened again by armed soldiers while he was at his aunt’s farm, the boy stopped going to school for three months. “When I grow up and can get a gun, I will take re­venge,” he said.

An 18-year-old man told interviewers that one night, two men “shot my father dead and beat my mother with their [guns].” The men were neighbors who had a quarrel with his mother. When she went to file a complaint, the district police and provincial court asked her for money. Threats continued, so his mother sent her children to an orphanage in another province for their protection, while she became a beggar in Thailand, the young man said.

In one out of five cases, Yem Sam Oeun and Rebecca Catalla wrote in the report, the assailants were armed guards, soldiers, po­lice or military officers.

“These uniformed men can go unpunished for the abuse they inflict due to their links to high-ranking government officials,” the report states.

The report recommends strict enforcement of weapons regulations, punishment for illegal use of guns and cooperation between villagers, local authorities and NGOs. It also suggested continuing the government’s weapon collection program that was launched in 1998, and finding jobs for demobilized soldiers.

 

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