In the past two years, the French embassy in Phnom Penh has been drawn into at least two high-profile cases in which their nationals have died in suspicious circumstances in Cambodia.
In the case of Laurent Vallier, 42, whose body was found with his four children in a vehicle submerged in a pond behind his home in Kampong Speu in January 2012, it took more than a year – and a second investigation – to determine that his death wasn’t a suicide.
This was after his skull was found in a suitcase in the back of the car and his body in the front passenger’s seat. The case remains open.
In an attempt to improve forensic investigations in the Kingdom, the French embassy announced yesterday it was helping provide experts to train officers from the Royal Gendarmerie, also known as the Military Police.
“Crime scenes and practical exercises using modern equipment from France have been organised to allow participants to learn how to deal with these situations and collect the necessary evidence,” a statement from the French embassy says.
The training, which came at the request of the Cambodian government, and “following a series of criminal cases where both Cambodians and foreign nationals were involved”, consisted of 63 officers being trained over five days.
Topics of focus included collecting fingerprints and performing tests in case of rape.
France also donated equipment to help officers across the country carry out investigations.
Military police spokesman Kheng Tito welcomed the training and equipment, but said it was desperately needed all across the country.
“No, we don’t have enough,” he said. “We need more. In 2012, the French gave us [equipment] and [it is] finished.”
A shortage in funding and training for police and military police in Cambodia is well-documented.
Earlier this year, the police response to the death of a woman on a ride at the Dreamland amusement park and the death of two workers at a garment factory in Kampong Speu raised questions about the police’s ability to even cordon off an accident scene in order to adequately investigate.