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Crackdown pledged on rogue checkpoints

National Military Police commander and four-star General Sao Sokha issued a stern warning yesterday to rogue police, military and military police who set up illegal checkpoints to extort money from travellers, saying that anyone caught in the process would be arrested immediately.

Colonel Kheng Tito, a spokesman for the military police, said General Sokha made the pronouncement at the Annual Military Police Congress in Svay Rieng on Sunday.

“His Excellency Commander General Sao Sokha has publicly warned all the police, military and military police that those who establish illegal checkpoints will be arrested and sent to court to be punished,” Colonel Tito said. “The purpose of this was to urge police, military and military police to respect the laws and be disciplined.”

“It was also to reduce and combat illegal checkpoints or controls in cities and provinces across the Kingdom of Cambodia,” he added.

Tito said the order, in addition to helping reign in illegal acts, aimed at promoting values of honour and quality. The checkpoints, often established arbitrarily in border areas, stained the reputation of law enforcement in the country and bred resentment among Cambodians against police and the military, he said.

Citing a 2012 military police report, Tito said the checkpoints were commonly used to extort money from local villagers, business travellers, and cross-border smugglers of illegal timber or goods.

Am Sam Ath, senior co-ordinator for rights group Licadho, said yesterday that civil society groups welcomed Sokha’s order. But due to low wages that lead to widespread corruption among police and the military, Sam Ath doubted that the lower rank and file would all obey.

As a member of civil society, Sam Ath said he “appreciated” the apparent crackdown, but “to ensure that his orders will be followed 100 percent by police or military . . . [Sokha] must create another mechanism” for following up.

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at reaksmeykongkea.buth@phnompenhpost.com

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