SIHANOUKVILLE (Khmer Times) – Kampot expats met with municipal authorities and police officials this week to discuss their growing fears over theft and robbery in the picturesque riverside community.
Foreigners in Kampot have grown increasingly concerned in recent weeks in the wake of a spate of robberies and thefts, some of which have been violent.
Stories from Kampot of motorcycle thefts, burglaries, bag snatching and robbery have become increasingly common during this year’s low season for tourism. Residents are also clearly dissatisfied with the police response so far and are demanding more action.
Robberies at Night
Criminals have been targeting foreigners at night in the riverside town.
Expatriates are warning each other and tourists not to walk home alone at night, to take special precautions if drunk and keep minimal cash and valuables on them when they go out.
Social media has become a valuable forum for the expat community to warn each other about crime hotspots and share stories.
“Thought I would let people know that I was robbed last night on the dirt road past the new bridge,” said Nick, an American expatriate. “Two Khmer kids about 18 to 20 years old walked up, hit me and stole $120. There was a third one on a motorcycle that took them away,” he continued.
Multiple other residents have also shared their stories on social media in an effort to bring increased awareness to crime in Kampot, which seems to be worsening, and has affected the whole community.
Foreign residents of Kampot are also concerned about their safety while driving, as well as the safety of their vehicles, following a number of attempted robberies on the road coupled with constant reports of motorcycles being stolen.
One particular story posted to Facebook last week attracted the attention and support of the entire expatriate community.
Liam MacKenzie told how his wife was returning from shopping when three men, reportedly Vietnamese, pulled up next to her on their motorcycle and attempted to cut her handbag from her shoulder.
The woman however, had different ideas. “She responded by kicking their bike,” wrote her husband.
“They had to swerve to miss an oncoming truck but ended up face down in the road.” Police took them away shortly after.
Sadly, few such stories end in such a dramatic and satisfying manner, and Kampot police have been heavily criticized for their apparent inability to crack down on their city’s worsening thievery problem.
Many residents were outraged to learn that three suspects held in custody for the suspected robbery of Nick, the American expatriate, were released within hours without explanation.
“I got a call from the police this morning, to go see the three boys that were arrested yesterday,” said Nick on Tuesday.
Upon his arrival at the police station however, he was surprised to discover they had already been released. “Not in custody anymore. They were released yesterday,” he told fellow expats on Facebook.
Many speculated as to why the police would release the suspects without giving the victim a chance to try and identify his attackers. Some suggested the police had been bribed, while others alleged that the suspects could be “protected” somehow.
In April this year, Sihanoukville welcomed a new police chief after the previous top cop was accused of “sleeping” during a so-called crime wave. Growing concerns in Kampot’s expatriate community coupled with increased scrutiny of the town’s policing could lead to a similar change if authorities are not seen dealing effectively with the worsening crime problem, say locals.