Police arrested three men Tuesday morning on suspicion of trying to steal motorbikes in Toul Sangke commune, Russei Keo District Police Chief Ly Lay said.
Police officers had been following the three suspects—Chun Sokhum, 18, Sun Bunthoeun, 23 and Seng Soeun, 22—since Monday evening. They were arrested before they were able to commit any further robberies, Ly Lay said. Police took away a handgun from the suspects and were holding them in the Russei Keo district police station until criminal charges were approved, police said.
“From now on we are strictly strengthening security until the [Water Festival] ceremonies are finished,” Municipal Police Chief Soun Chheang Ly said. “We have already deployed the forces to ensure the security for the ceremony and [so far] we have only arrested the three robbers with the gun.”
These latest arrests come just weeks after police took credit for breaking up a ring of six thieves who had allegedly stolen 11 motorbikes in three districts in Phnom Penh and Kandal province, Toul Kok district Police Officer Bun Song said. Also arrested was a woman who was allegedly buying the stolen bikes from the thieves at a reduced price. All the suspects have given police confessions, Bun Song said.
At least 7,000 police and military policemen have been deployed in Phnom Penh to ensure the safety of the public during this year’s festivities, National Police Chief Hok Lundy has said.
Security will be tighter this year than in the past in order to thwart any potential threat of violence from the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, Hok Lundy said.
There is some concern, however, that citizens may need protection from the police themselves. Doubts were raised earlier this month when a warrant was issued for a Municipal Police officer who allegedly shot and killed his brother-in-law, an RCAF officer, in a domestic dispute. Citizens have also expressed concern that there are so many visibly armed officers present in the city.
“Even though the CFF has been quiet right now, we need to prevent an incident,” Soun Chheang Ly said, adding Hok Lundy had called a meeting of commanders and issued high standards for security at the festival.
Phnom Penh mayor Chea Sophara received an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen at a meeting of the Council of Ministers calling for better security and services at this year’s festival.
“We have created better security in the city and better health service teams for the people of our nation and the people from the countryside,” the governor said. “This year’s security is better than other years because we have swept out the robbers. I strongly believe that this year our people are pleased with the occasion because we have large places for spectators to sit, especially on the east side of the Tonle Sap. This has made it easier for security to control” the situation.