IF most Cambodian police believe their job is to put people in jail, the guardians
of peace in the wild western province of Banteay Meanchey make a refreshing change.
In one of the more unusual prison "break-outs" of recent times, the
long arm of the law stretched inside the provincial prison to pluck an inmate - a
policeman - to freedom.
In a fit of pique at the local court's audacity in ordering the arrest and detention
of one of his men, a deputy police chief filed a release order - in the form of a
bunch of heavily-armed police and an armored vehicle.
In the November case, only recently brought to the attention of human rights groups,
a woman named Sok Seng filed a battery complaint against policemen Eng Loeuth. Military
police, on the orders of the Banteay Meanchey court, ordered Loeuth's arrest and
he was imprisoned.
Deputy police chief Chhoung Sokhom, upon hearing of the arrest, went to have a
word with the court.
"The court official fled when my deputy parked a 'Scout' [armored vehicle ]
in front of the court. There was no-one in the office," explained Sokhom's boss,
Banteay Meanchey police commissioner Sok Saret.
With the court staff nowhere to be found, Sokhom was unable to seek Loeth's release,
so he went straight to the prison with about 10 police and his armored vehicle. There,
after some discussion, the prison staff decided that perhaps they don't need a court
order to free Loeuth and the policeman was dutifully released.
"Yes, his action was wrong," Saret said of Sokhom's prison visit,"
but he has to look after his 'children'. He had to get his policeman from the prison
because the court did a stupid thing.
"He got very angry because the court sent the military police to arrest his
policeman without any [evidence of ] guilt, and without telling him. We are an armed
unit and the military police is also an armed unit - why did the court send an armed
unit to arrest an armed unit? "
Saret said that the complainant, Sok Seng, was Eng Loeuth's mother-in-law. "This
was a simple dispute in a family. It was not a big story." He alleged that Sok
Seng made up the battery complaint and paid the court to order Loeuth's arrest, saying:
"Their [ court officials'] eyes are blind because they have been hit by money
"It is dangerous for people who have little education to work for a very
good department like that," said Saret, adding that the official who ordered
the arrest "is a lawyer but he does not know anything about the law".
Besides, he said, Loeuth was arrested on a Sunday and everyone knows that government
departments do not work on a Sunday.
Both Loeuth and Sokhom retain their jobs, Saret said. He added that he had not
heard anything form the court about pursuing the battery charge.