Cambodia’s Government Faces Mounting Pressure to End Kidnappings, Torture

Posted on: March 11, 2022, 08:46h.

Last updated on: March 11, 2022, 01:30h.

The Cambodian government has vowed to take action against illegal gambling, kidnapping and other crimes.

Cambodia crime
In this photo from 2015, Cambodian police round up a gang of alleged Chinese criminals. Since that time, crime in some areas of the country has gotten worse. (Image: Asia Times)

Cambodian deputy prime minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng is calling out government organizations and law enforcement, according to the Khmer Times media outlet. He wants them to work harder at ending crime in cities like Sihanoukville, which has been a hotbed for illegal activity for years.

Last September, police in Cambodia raided a compound in Phnom Penh linked to human trafficking and illegal gambling. Earlier this month, a man killed himself, allegedly as a last-resort attempt to flee a human trafficking ring. That was at the same time that police freed a group of Indonesians caught up in illegal trade.

These are just a few of the latest cases that highlight a certain degree of lawlessness that has taken over areas of Cambodia. However, the issues have been present in various degrees for years. Now, as public pressure to make changes increases, the government appears ready to take action.

Cambodia Government Calls for Change

The government’s official’s intervention may be tied to upcoming elections. He even hinted at that when announcing the crackdown, stating that the “problem must be solved before the elections.”

The community-level elections are this June. It is difficult to imagine law enforcement undoing decades of corruption and criminal activity in less than three months.

When images of crimes happening in Cambodia are spread around the world, people would wonder why Cambodia is so bad,said Kheng.

The Chinese government offered to help. It requested permission from Cambodia to lead investigations into criminal activity involving Chinese nationals in the country. However, Cambodia turned it down, with Kheng claiming such privileges would place the sovereignty of Cambodia.

Public Pressure Mounts

There is a growing call from humanitarian groups and governments for Cambodia to take a more proactive stance. At least five Asian embassies have issued notices to their citizens to stay away because of the problems.

They’re not alone, as the US State Department lists Cambodia as a Level 4 country. This is the worst level the government gives and signifies its position that citizens shouldn’t visit the country. The warning is because of violent crime, “land mines and unexploded ordnance” in certain provinces, and COVID-19.

The humanitarian crisis, coupled with the response from governments, led to continuing civil groups demanding action, according to the Khmer Times. Some 35 groups, including Adhoc, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, International Justice Mission, and Transparency International penned a letter to the government to voice their opinion.

In it, they assert that the government must do something. It needs to stop the “forced labor, slavery, and torture” that is happening in the country. The groups call the situation a “tragedy,” and asserts that “relevant actors” need to work to eradicate the criminal activity.

“The government should fully investigate and abolish all compounds linked with illegal gambling and fraud operations and associated forced labor, slavery or torture. The state should also investigate alleged complicity between some government authorities and the criminal enterprises,” wrote the group of civil organizations.

They also call for an unified response that includes governments from other countries. This might stem from a belief that Cambodia isn’t capable of resolving the issues alone. That’s possible, as it took intervention from the United Nations to get the government to release 200 NagaWorld strikers this week.

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