The notorious Daun Penh district security guards will be out in force for the upcoming Water Festival, but rather than inflicting injuries, they have been trained to treat them, officials claimed yesterday.
Daun Penh District Governor Kouch Chamroeun said yesterday that 80 security guards will join forces with some 300 police and military police to maintain order in the area throughout the three-day festival.
While the security guards have earned themselves a reputation as violent thugs, Chamroeun claimed that they have broadened their horizons.
“They received vocational training in emergency health care from the Red Cross,” he said, adding that as well as medical support, the guards will assist with traffic control and cleaning the streets.
“They will also help to control the vendors who bring their goods to sell … to the audience. [They are] keeping public order,” he added.
Chamroeun said that the guards – regularly behind violent beatings of protesters in the post-election period – have been educated about the Kingdom’s Law on Peaceful Assembly by the Ministry of Interior.
A sub-decree signed in March showed that the baton-wielding guards are part of a structure reporting directly to the ministry.
Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said the use of the guards during the festivities raised some serious questions.
“First of all, will they be armed with their regular … electric shock batons? Will they be wearing their black helmets? Will they be providing security or clashing [with] the people?”
She added that their control over vendors was a particular point of concern.
“Vendors come from the villages with their products … but sometimes they wander off [of their assigned patch], I’m worried about how they will be treated,” she said.
Sochua said that she was also worried “for the safety of such a big crowd”.
“Controlling a crowd is a very special technique,” she explained, calling on the governor to publicise how the guards have been trained.
Speaking after a meeting yesterday between municipal authorities and security forces, City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche gave few details of how order will be maintained.
Dimanche said that around 10,000 police and military police will be deployed but said he could not reveal “the number of security guards or civil servants that will join” across the city.
“We need to defend the people, so we cannot give more details about the force, because it’s the secret of the national defence,” he said.