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Mob killings on the rise in Cambodia, UN reports

Mob killings on the rise in Cambodia, UN reports

A new United Nations report documents the rising trend of mob violence in Cambodia and calls for stepped-up efforts to compel greater police intervention.

The report, Street Retribution in Cambodia, charts an increase in incidents of mob violence after an 18-month decline. "In the six months to the end of May, angry crowds murdered and maimed on 11 occasions, compared with only three such incidents in the previous six months," notes the report, which was prepared by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia.

The report paints a mixed picture of the response by law enforcement officials. "Members of Cambodia's police frequently fail to intervene, and have been directly complicit on several occasions," it states. "However, the past year has also seen the first known occasions in which police have successfully intervened to stop people being killed." The report notes that five of the six people who had survived mob attacks over the past year "may owe their lives to police intervention."

Mob killings, which have taken the lives of at least 65 people since mid-1999, are currently occurring at a rate of two per month, according to the report, which offers examples of the violence, such as the murder on 18 March of two men who had been dragged away from police and beaten to death by a waiting crowd.

“Claims by police officers that they are powerless to act against a mob might have more credibility if they weren’t so often complicit,” states the report. It calls for disciplinary measures against police who fail to respond appropriately and recommends the establishment of an independent board of inquiry to scrutinize the problem and the official response.

At the same time, the document calls attention to the role of other members of Cambodian society. "Prosecutors need to reflect on their own shortcomings and ask why police and mobs are allowed to break the law, why they are not prosecuted, and why legal processes are not pursued," the report advises. "A majority of Cambodia's citizens need to ask why they do not react to mob violence with shame and horror."