Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday outlined the role to be played by a taskforce created last month to battle a spike in crime in Preah Sihanouk province in a bid to allay people’s fears and restore Sihanoukville’s reputation.
Last month, Mr Kheng ordered the creation of the taskforce to provide additional support to provincial authorities cracking down on crimes committed by foreign nationals.
Mr Kheng said that crimes plaguing Sihanoukville include murder, drug trafficking and gambling, which has led to extortion and kidnapping cases as the foreign population there has ballooned.
At the ministry yesterday, Mr Kheng was asked by reporters about a drop in national tourists to the province because they fear for their safety.
“Because of that issue, we created a taskforce to go there and help solve the crime problem,” he responded.
Mr Kheng said the taskforce, which includes officials form the General Department of Administration, the National Police, General Department of Immigration, and legal experts, is advising provincial authorities on how to best reduce crime.
“I have not ordered them to be there permanently and they are just going to stay in the province to assess the situation,” Mr Kheng said. “They will provide ideas on what needs to be done to reduce crime.”
“If there are some problems that the provincial authorities cannot solve, they must report the matter to the ministry,” he added.
He added that the province also has environmental and land conflict problems due to an increase in investment there which has driven up land prices.
Provincial police chief Major General Chuon Narin said yesterday that the security situation is not what some people make it out to be.
“I am staying in Preah Sihanouk province,” he said. “There are no security problems here.”
Maj Gen Narin suggested that visitors stay in the province, which has seen a spike in crimes following a huge influx of Chinese nationals, for two or three nights and judge the security situation for themselves.
Prior to the formation of the taskforce, the National Police formed an 11-member working group drawn from senior officials from various departments within the National Police to check and evaluate the security situation in the province.
According to the working group’s report, up to 70 percent of investments in the province came from China, and the increase in Chinese investment has led Chinese mafias setting up criminal networks and committing various crimes, including kidnapping.
In February, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Xiong Bo said that China stands in solidarity with Cambodian authorities to arrest Chinese nationals committing crimes in the country following criticism from Cambodians on Facebook.
On Monday, 91 Chinese nationals were deported to their country following Voice Over Internet Protocol scams.
Provincial Governor Yun Min said yesterday that the taskforce was created to aid provincial authorities, denying that the crime situation in the province is out of control and suggesting that people have exaggerated the problem.
“In fact, those criticisms come from one bird and then they become ten birds,” Mr Min said.