Pawn Shop Clampdown Aims to Reduce Theft Across Phnom Penh

In an effort to reduce theft, district authorities across Phnom Penh have been instructed to clamp down on pawn shops and those accepting goods from sellers without receipts or other documents to prove ownership.

Attention is being turned to shops, licensed and unlicensed, that could encourage theft by taking goods—ranging from phones and jewelry to motorbikes and cars—in return for quick cash, City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said on Wednesday.

“When it’s easy to convert things into money, it encourages [criminals] to sneak and rob,” he said. “If we don’t control [pawn shops] well, it becomes part of creating an offense. But if we can control them well, it can also reduce crimes.”

Following a meeting at City Hall last week, district officials were given two weeks to disseminate information on legal pawn shop operations and carry out inspections and raids across their areas, Mr. Measpheakdey said.

Shop owners found buying and selling illegally-obtained goods will be held accountable to the law, he added, which could involve criminal proceedings. Stores operating without a license will be closed.

The total number of pawn shops was unclear amid ongoing inspections, Mr. Measpheakdey said, adding that while he could not remember the exact date the crackdown would lapse, authorities would reassess the situation then.

In 2009, the government laid the groundwork for pawn shops to flourish throughout Phnom Penh by releasing an edict regulating the industry. The first legal pawn shop opened the following year.

Since the meeting last Tuesday, officials in Tuol Kok district inspected about 10 of 60 pawn shops and shut two, according to district governor Ek Khun Doeun. He said 42 motorbikes without legal paperwork had been confiscated from one shop.

In nearby Sen Sok district, 51 motorbikes, two cars and a tuk-tuk were confiscated from a pawnshop warehouse, which had since been shut down, according to deputy district governor Sak Chan Kanharith. The owner had been arrested, he said, but he had no further details on the case and referred questions to the district police chief who could not be reached for comment.

“They can only accept pawned goods that have proper documents,” Mr. Khun Doeun said. “If they take things without documents, it seems as though [they] joined hands with thieves.”

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