US Urges Caution Over Brick Attacks in Phnom Penh

In a periodic update of consular information on Cambodia, the US State Department last week warned visitors to Phnom Penh that that foreign pedestrians on the capital’s riverfront had been subject to attacks with projectiles thrown from a moving vehicle.

Though they have received attention in print media since July, few such attacks have been directly reported to police, who have made little progress in investigating them. Phnom Penh’s police chief said yesterday he believed the matter was overstated.

“Several of the victims reportedly suffered facial lacerations and concussions. All of the attacks took place at night, and the victims included both foreign men and women,” the US Bureau of Consular Affairs said in a Sept 1 update to its website.

Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth expressed skepticism.

“I have just heard [about the attacks] from the media,” he said. “The police have never gotten any filed complaint from any foreigner or any victim. Even at the hospitals, there were no reports from brick attacks, and also no embassy contacted police about that.”

“Even if [the reports] are true or not true, it might involve only a personal dispute, not against [any] race.”

Nevertheless, Mr Naruth said he had ordered more police to patrol the riverfront in the past couple of weeks.

Other government officials questioned the wisdom of posting what they perceived as unsubstantiated claims that could hurt tourism to the country.

“Posting any information without facts could scare away tourists to Phnom Penh,” said Sam Chanreth, deputy director of the municipal tourism department. “I do believe that Cambodians welcome all foreign tourists and don’t discriminate. Even small children yell ‘Hello!’ to foreigners. How could brick attacks happen?”

In 2004, foreigners were targeted with marbles and ball bearings fired from moving vehicles. One person lost an eye after apparently being shot with a slingshot. No suspects were apprehended, but the US Embassy in Phnom Penh warned US citizens to take precautions around the capital’s riverfront area.


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