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‘Guards are more than farmers in uniform’

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John Muller, managing director of Global Security Solutions, pictured in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Sarah Thust/Phnom Penh Post

Located in a humble, barrack-like building with small offices that are still under construction, Global Security Solutions enjoys the proximity to its biggest customer: Toll Royal Railways.

However, pictures of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former US President George HW Bush and actor Richard Gere adorn the single-storey building’s walls suggesting that Global Security Solutions’ Managing Director John Muller is a formidable networker with a stellar reputation.

The company not only provides security for embassies, but for petrochemical companies, hotels and airlines as well.

Since the company, a division of the EZECOM Group, started operations in early 2011, Muller has recruited 21 employees and about 600 security guards and plans to further expand this payroll to not more than 1,000 guards.

“My long experience and my contact network allowed me to handpick the best men and women,” he told the Post yesterday in an interview.

The field of hi-tech security lured security expert Muller a long time ago. The former US soldier started his career in Thailand in 1986 with Circle Freight, a major American logistics company, as Indochina manager.

“In the ’90s, I established the first professional private security services company in Cambodia. We helped the government to disarm the many unprofessional security guards, even some police,” he said, adding that police called him the ‘father of security.’ “AK-47s and other weapons disappeared from the streets and tourists felt safer.”

Nowadays, while most tourists think of Cambodia as a relatively safe country due to his influence on the national lawmakers, Muller has extended his knowledge about security services like no one else. He is looking back on 27 years of experience in Southeast Asia and 16 years in Cambodia.

Global Security Solutions is well connected, serving Mobitel, Plan International and several NGOs in Cambodia. Its biggest customer besides parent company EZECOM is Toll Royal Railways.

“Working for Toll is a daunting task, because a lot of things are happening in the bush. We don’t have instructors going there every time, so we need to find technical solutions to monitor our employees,” Muller explained, adding that his company protects railways and containers.

The office in the back of the building differs from the gallery-like rooms in the front. Having passed four security checkpoints, the last door unlocks automatically, allowing a short glimpse of large screens showing cash points and offices.

“People in Cambodia think of security guards as farmers in uniforms, but they are more than that,” Muller said. Talking about his experience with American, Vietnamese, Thai, Australian, Iraqi and Khmer guards he said: “I am not looking for anything else than Khmer staff. They are very dedicated, loyal and hard working.”

Security guards begin at a monthly salary of $130 and are on average 26 years old. Only one per cent of the company’s employees are women, as customers in Cambodia still prefer men. The job is less about power, and more about intelligent planning, according to 63-year-old Muller.

“I want to increase the number of my female and handicapped employees,” Muller said.

Executive Director Sim Kalyan, or “Suzie”, is one of the few women in the company. The 33-year-old Cambodian manages Global Security Solutions’ finances. “I learned a lot about fraud investigations from John,” Suzie told the Post.

“Every expatriate’s company needs a so-called door opener for its customers. They can address the second in the hierarchy, who understands their language and shares the same culture,” she explained, adding that she would like to become the company’s director.

However, the company’s biggest challenge lies on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, according to Muller. “Gangs and drug dealers threaten our own people and our [conflict] intervention team,” he said.

This is one reason why Muller wants to add more hi-tech to security procedures. “We want to go robotic to protect our guards,” the managing director said, adding that a robot could undertake dangerous duties like arresting drug traders while being steered from a safe and remote office.

Global Security Solutions’ second plan is a similar big challenge: “I want to motivate the government to use forensic technology and to register all weapons in Cambodia,” Muller, an official adviser to the police, said.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Thust at saraharbeit@gmx.de
 

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