Seventy-two Phnom Penh Municipal Police officers were sacked, suspended or issued warnings last month for abusing their positions, and some were sent to the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) for questioning related to alleged misconduct, a senior police official said yesterday.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Choun Sovann said that some of the officers being disciplined had accepted bribes, engaged in corruption and used their roles to threaten the citizens of Phnom Penh.
Of the 72, he added, 66 were temporarily suspended for making administrative mistakes and disobeying police regulations, two were fired for routinely failing to come to work, two were fired and arrested for shooting a motorist and two economic police officers accused of taking bribes were arrested and sent to the ACU for further investigation.
According to Sovann, the crackdown was the largest of its kind, and was prompted by a desire to improve the reputation of Phnom Penh’s police force after the numerous summits held in the city over the last year drew increasing international attention to the city.
Sovann – who himself was accused yesterday of striking two military police officers responsible for crowd control at this weekend’s funeral – went on to say that the new vigilance was his first major reform since assuming his role late last year.
“This action and these strict measures were a warning for all policemen and police officials who serve in Phnom Penh,” he said. “Every policeman or police officer is absolutely not allowed to use their roles and influence to intimidate or threaten citizens or infringe on their rights. If they are violating police rules... they will be punished by the law.”
To ensure that those rules and regulations are strictly obeyed, he added, the municipal police will conduct a review meeting at the end of every month.
“I hope that through this strict action and measure above, we can strengthen and promote the respect of the national police’s discipline and... quality of work in the future,” he said.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said he welcomed the measures but said higher wages were necessary to stamp out corruption once and for all.
“I think that the rules or regulations for national armed forces must be respected responsibly, but I pity our police forces because their salaries are small and they could not support their families, so they had to take bribes,” he said.
Chan Soveth, senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, echoed Sovann’s sentiment on wages, adding that many Cambodians had lost their trust in the police, not only because of corruption but also because they threatened villagers and demonstrators.
“I welcome the action and measures of the [commissioner]. I think it is good reform for the national police’s discipline, but I do not think that it will completely do [the job] because of their low wages,” he said.