Cambodian authorities are cracking down on gun-related violence — by reminding police officers they are banned from carrying firearms while off duty.
National Police spokesman Gen. Kirt Chatharith said Tuesday the Interior Ministry issued the ban several years ago, but Phnom Penh city police chief Chhoun Sovann this week reminded officers of the regulation because of a recent spate of gun-related crime.
Last month an off-duty police officer allegedly shot dead two people and wounded a third in a dispute among neighbors. The Phnom Penh Post cited Sovann as faulting authorities for using their guns irresponsibly.
Prime Minister Hun Sen in December also ordered a crackdown on gangs committing armed robberies after several people were killed.
Senior provincial police officials investigating a recent wave of armed robberies may face demotion if they do not make arrests in the cases, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said on Tuesday, while admitting the weapons used in those crimes may have been stolen from the state.
"All police forces are allowed to carry weapons only when they are on mission or duty," Chantharith said. "But they are strongly forbidden to carry guns while they are off duty or to keep them at their homes." Violation of the order would be met by dismissal or imprisonment, he said.
Cambodia is awash in firearms after being in a state of civil war for much of three decades, until the late 1990s. The government had held amnesties to coax people to turn in their weapons.
Several recent shootings have involved rich and well-connected Cambodians and their bodyguards, who often go unpunished in a flawed justice system. Hun Sen in 2012 told provincial officials that influential people must face punishment if they wield or fire their guns in public.