In a move designed to help Cambodia salvage its international image following the recent violent coup, Phnom Penh authorities said they were cracking down on organised crime, police lawlessness and illegal weapons. Topping an eight-point security plan announced by coup leader and Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, was the need to combat a new wave of kidnappings, which authorities said were being organised by former expatriate Cambodians, Macau gangsters and corrupt local police. At least 50 people have been kidnapped for ransom in the capital during the last six months, according to a security official close to investigations. The official said the situation had become 'much worse' following the coup in early July, with up to five cases reported to police each week. 'But that's just the tip of the problem, many people will deal with kidnappers without telling the authorities,' he said. Ransom demands from kidnappers have also increased dramatically. 'Late last month a local businessman involved in construction was snatched and his abductors demanded US$300,000 (HK$2.32 million). In the end he was released after his family paid US$120,000 in cash,' he said. The head of Cambodian Interpol, General Skadavy Ly Roun, confirmed the trends. He said the main perpetrators appeared to be Cambodians who had lived in France, Australia or the United States but had returned home after falling foul of the law abroad. 'Cambodia is like a warehouse of criminals. Our lax immigration laws make it very easy for criminals to come and live here,' General Skadavy said. 'But I have to be frank with you. One of the biggest problems is corrupt policemen and soldiers. 'Expatriate criminals come back to Cambodia with money, they pay the policemen and soldiers, even to kill people.' General Skadavy said there were three main gangs of kidnappers in Phnom Penh, the largest of which included about 100 Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese former expatriates who had formed a gang, the Asian Boyz, in California. He said the the second-largest was a group of gangsters from Macau, while the third was headed by 'Cambodian military and police officials'. He confirmed that a group of 10 policemen and soldiers had been arrested late last month. 'Before we were powerless. Two prime ministers meant we really had two police forces and often we could not approach the criminals,' General Skadavy said. 'But Hun Sen has given the green light now to go after kidnappers, whoever they are.'