Phnom Penh Residents Fear Return to Violence

Chan Satum said Friday night’s shooting has convinced him to close his small family restaurant at night, and rely instead on selling fruit during the day.

“I’m ordering my family to stop selling at night because security is not good,” said the Phnom Penh vendor.

It’s understandable that Chan Satum worries. His restaurant is across the street from Interpol, the site of Friday night’s shooting.

Far from being an isolated case, a number of Cambodians interviewed Saturday say increased violence in Phnom Penh has raised fears, disrupted their businesses and prompted them to question whether free and fair elections will be held this year.

Ung Meng Chou, a teacher from Kompong Cham who was visiting Phnom Penh, said she worries violence will disrupt the elections and, ultimately, result in Cambodia losing foreign aid.

“I feel scared because the security of the country is not good and if the situation gets worse, it will affect the election and the election will not be held,” she said.

Only about half of those interviewed had heard of the bomb planted in a vendor’s cart outside the Central Post Office last week, but all were shaken by Friday night’s gunfire.

“I thought there was fighting like July again,” said Heng Sitha, the 51-year-old owner of an art shop on Street 178.

Heng Sitha, surrounded by Buddha statues and Angkor Wat paintings, said business has been bad enough since July. Now, she said, increased violence could deter the few foreigners who visit.

“More fighting, no customers,” she said succinctly. “It’s up to the government to think of the people and their safety. We need the international communities to organize the election because Cambodian people especially in the provinces cannot say anything because of threats from authorities.”

At the restaurant across from  Interpol, Chan Santum’s wife, Chap Sarrom, asked, “If the situation gets worse, how can people make a living?”

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