Siem Reap Theft Fears Rise

Vendors at a market near Cambodia's star tourist attraction say they're concerned about security.
2013-01-30
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Foreign tourists buy textiles at a temple in Siem Reap, Oct. 3, 2009.
AFP

Fears of theft are on the rise among market vendors in a tourist district in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, the gateway to the world-renowned Angkor archeological site.

Vendors at a market in Puok district said they have lost a lot of money following a slew of thefts in the town’s main market this month and are concerned about their security.

Vender Oun Sokhalay, who sells clothes and perfume in the market, said burglars took about U.S. $6,000 worth of her goods.

"Police said they didn't know what happened. There are a few other stores that were also robbed. Police never arrested the thieves," she told RFA’s Khmer Service.

Another woman said her medicine store in the market was burglarized overnight, when about U.S. $1,000 of jewelry and valuables were stolen.

"I am very sad that I’ve lost my belongings, and I’m afraid at nighttime," she said.

Puok District Police Chief Mao Sal said police were investigating the thefts but had not yet arrested any suspects.

"There were burglaries inside the markets, but we haven’t been able to make any arrests yet," he told RFA’s Khmer Service.

He said the markets are too big to be protected easily and suggested the vendors install lights to prevent burglaries.

47 cases

Puok is located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the provincial capital of Siem Reap, which has a reputation as the country’s safest city.

Siem Reap Deputy Police Chief Thon Sakun told RFA that in 2012 there were 47 cases of theft, robbery, and rape reported in Puok district.

This month’s burglaries in the market follow the high-profile armed robbery of a gold shop in the district in July that ended in a deadly shootout with police.

More than 300 policemen pursued the four men who had robbed the shop during broad daylight and taken four villagers as hostages.

Police exchanged fire with the robbers, who were all killed.

“When the robbers were cornered they used a grenade, but it didn’t explode. They didn’t give in until they were killed,” Thon Sakun said.

Earlier last year following a slew of motorcycle thefts, police had stepped up security in the province, conducting routine road checks and setting up mobile offices throughout the city.

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Ta Phrom strike

Puok abuts the archeological park of Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s star tourist attraction, where workers restoring the Ta Phrom temple ruins have threatened to strike over planned job cuts.

Last Thursday, police prevented all 170 workers involved in a restoration project overseen by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) from entering the site when they showed up to work.

ASI later agreed to reopen the site and give all workers a paid day of leave for the one-day lockout, according to Building and Wood Workers International.

The group, a global union federation of workers in the industry that has been involved with organizing unions in the Angkor area for several years, said the workers had been locked out for requesting to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.