The attack of an elderly tourist on a Preah Sihanouk province beach has spurred police at the seaside tourist town to step up patrols and has heighten worries among embassies about the safety of foreign tourists, officials said Monday.
Tak Vantha, provincial police chief in Preah Sihanouk province, said 40 policemen have been deployed along Ochheuteal beach to cut down on criminals targeting tourists at the popular destination.
“We are focusing on security for our visitors and we are on duty 24 hours on Ochheuteal and Otres beach where offenders have tried to beat or rob our visitors,” he said Monday.
Tak Vantha said many travelers come to Cambodia assuming they will be perfectly safe throughout the country and occasionally place themselves in jeopardy.
An official with the German Embassy, who declined to be named, said the frequency and brutality of attacks on tourists appears to be on the rise and is alarming.
“It’s quite worrying,” the official said.
The most recent attack reported by police is that of Austrian tourist Maria Eberhard, whom police said was struck on the head with a stone Friday and possibly robbed while at the beach. That assault follows the November high-profile rape case of a British tourist in Battambang province and the shooting this month of a Frenchmen at a rubber plantation in Ratanakkiri province.
The German Embassy is linking Cambodian authorities with Austrian officials in Bangkok and attempting to track down friends and relatives of the victim and whether or not she had health insurance.
It has also warned German citizens traveling to Cambodia to take precautions for their safety but stopped short of telling them to stay out of the country.
“I think we are going to step up this warning,” the embassy official said, adding that the embassy, along with the French and British embassies, would begin collecting data about attacks on tourists and submit it in the coming weeks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior.
Officials at the British Embassy did not respond to e-mails or phone calls seeking comment.
Without answering specific questions, French Embassy spokeswoman Faybene Mansencal said the embassy routinely collect information about attacks on foreigners and tourists in conjunction with other western embassies.
Secretary of State for the Ministry of Tourism So Mara said safety problems for tourists are few and far between. He said the country enjoys political stability and steady economic growth, making it a safe destination.
“We welcome any kind of suggestion,” he said. “We are willing to work together with other governments and private companies.”
Sam Sam An, cabinet chief for Preah Sihanouk province, said the provincial authority is taking action to stop crime locally, as well.
“We are concerned not only about the security of foreigners but also security for locals. We already set the method for the plan,” he said. When asked for more details about the government’s plan, Sam Sam An referred further questions to police and hung up the phone.
Provincial Governor Sboang Sarath could be reached for comment Monday and Som Chinda, director of tourism for Preah Sihanouk province, hung up the phone on a reporter.
(Reporting by Saing Soenthrith, Frank Radosevich and Phorn Bopha)