There were nearly 600 suicides nationwide last year, a 13 percent increase compared with the year before, data released by the Ministry of Interior this week shows.
According to the Interior Ministry’s annual report, there were 586 suicides in 2012, compared to 521 suicides in 2011, an increase of about 13 percent.
The Interior Ministry’s suicide data is the result of police investigations, however mental health experts say this estimate is a mere fraction of the actual number of suicides, and paints an inaccurate picture of the real situation in the country.
“The Ministry of Interior, they base those [figures] on the cases, we base on a population-based survey,” Sek Sisokhom, head of the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s psychology department, said on Thursday.
According to a survey conducted by Ms. Sisokhom of 2,600 adults aged 21 and over, there were 42.35 reported suicides per 100,000 of the population in 2011.
If accurate, this figure would make Cambodia the country with the highest suicide rate in the world. In 2011, South Korea had the official highest suicide rate among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, with 31.7 suicides per 100,000 in its populace of about 50 million.
The latest figure from the Interior Ministry puts that number at about 4 suicides per 100,000 of the population.
“We based it on the scientific methodology and interviewed households…. I think it’s representative,” Ms. Sisokhom said, adding that Cambodians between the ages of 20 and 25 are the most likely to commit suicide, largely due to depression caused by joblessness.
“Many students finish school and cannot find jobs,” she said, adding that due to a lack of mental-health awareness and counseling services, youths often turn to suicide more readily than they would do in more developed countries.
“Their communication is limited, they don’t know how to communicate,” she said. “The only one way is to decide to [commit] suicide.”
The Ministry of Interior also released its annual crime figures this week. According to the ministry, the number of both felonies and misdemeanors dropped slightly last year. According to the ministry, the number of reported crimes decreased 6 percent, from 2,855 crimes committed in 2011 to 2,689 last year.
Felonies—including murder, rape, armed robbery and acid attacks—dropped 3 percent, from 860 in 2011 to 838 last year, while misdemeanors—theft, fraud and gambling among other minor crimes—fell 7 percent, from 1,995 to 1,851 during the same period. Among felonies, only murders increased—up 8 percent from 268 in 2011 to 290 last year.
But the number of child rapes recorded by the Interior Ministry, 99, was significantly lower than figures obtained by rights group Adhoc. According to Adhoc, there were 201 child rapes last year, of a total of 320 reported rape cases.