Sihanouk Ville: From World’s Best Bays to Mafia Territory?

Unofficial Translation from The Phnom Penh Post’s Khmer edition


Foreigner group supported Kazantip that they prepared the concert in Sihanouk ville last month.
Foreigner group supported Kazantip that they prepared the concert in Sihanouk ville last month. Photo: MAX ELVINGER

According to the 2014 annual report of the Ministry of Interior, “the crime rate has increased by 4 percent”. Meanwhile, the number of the police officers, especially the ones in senior positions such as generals, has increased notably. What is the implication of such easy promotions for security and stability in Cambodia, especially at tourist sites?

Although General Neth Savoeun, the Head of the National Police Commissariat has claimed in front of the ambassadors from 25 countries that there was no mafia presence in Cambodia’s business investments and shown his commitment in promoting local security at tourist sites, a of bunch crimes were committed barely a week later. Based on the articles of local newspapers, there were three ”big” cases in Sihanouk ville province. First, two male foreigners, a Canadian and a Finnish, were severely injured in a robbery on Koh Rong island; second, again in Koh Rong, a couple of Korean women were beaten by robbers, and third, two young men were hacked to death and a motorbike destroyed by a ring of gangsters. Regarding the third case, the police initially made the so-called assumption that it was a traffic accident, maybe because they were afraid to lose their badges.

Could this unrest stem from the impunity of members of the two conflicting Russian groups, linked to the two Russian Millionaires, Mr. Nicolai Doroshenko and Mr. Sergei Polonsky, who are currently facing in other court? They are often involved in public brawls, or worse, alleged assassinassions to protect their spheres of influence. The canceling of the Kazantip Concert in Koh Rong, for example, was a consequence of the conflict between both groups, which escalated into physical violence.

Neither the court nor the police can find an effective resolution for the dispute between the two tycoons. It may well be that they stand to gain from the conflict. New criminal cases occur every day as the cost of living keeps increasing. Meanwhile, the murder case of Oknha: Eung Meng Cheu, which involved Oknha: Thoung Sarath and his parents, remains unsolved while the victim’s family seeks “real justice”.

Even Prime Minister Hun Sen has recognized the corruption in Cambodia’s court system. Regarding the escape of Thoung Sarath’s parents, it sure involves bribery, but the cost is unknown. If the arrest was that difficult, how could the police arrest and persecute the personal fortuneteller and assistance of Mr. Aing Maltey (former head of the Phnom Penh municipal court), who was in hiding on Chiso mountain in Takeo province? Obviously, the police will only take action when they want or need to do it.

Why does the government allow those dangerous people to gather in the Sihanouk Ville, which is a very important tourist site in Cambodia? Do they have any “high ranking people” backing them? Mr. Sergei Polonsky remains outside of custody for his misdeeds just because he was the Russian man who sponsored the construction of the bridge on Snake Island, and nothing else? The Cambodian authorities usually greet such investors with open arms, thinking that they can take advantage of such investors, but if they come to launder their money, they are unaware or turn blind eye? They can set up illegal businesses with dirty money. Accepting such dangerous people will certainly bring many benefits to powerful figures while the ones who suffer are civilians, tourists and the country’s reputation. Moreover, the insecurity and corruption have prevented good investors from coming to Cambodia.

Due to the instability and unrest in Sihanouk Ville, local and international tourists now find it risky to visit. So to speak, the local people are currently under the threat of the foreigners.

Does the Cambodia’s Government want safe tourist sites and good investors, or mafia investors and robbers? In 2011, Cambodia’s bay was voted into the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club, and in 2013, Cambodia was the host for this club’s summit.
Furthermore, the police should learn more about the “Mafia” and their activities rather than deny or reject any accusation for no rhyme or reason. If the problems in Sihanouk Ville cannot be solved, the heads of the provincial police and military police should be removed.

The upswell of criminal violence in Sihanouk ville should be nipped in the bud before the problem gets bigger and involves more casualties, which will hurt the province and country’s reputation.

Tong Soprach is a social-affairs columnist for the Post’s Khmer edition.


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Preah Sihanouk police chief transferred