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Mistake leads police to minister’s doorstep

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National Police Commissioner General Neth Savoeun. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

A case of mistaken identity has become something of an embarrassing lesson for the National Police, whose officers’ pursuit of extortionists led them to the home of Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Im Sethy on January 5.

Four-star General Neth Savoeun, director of the general-commissariat of the National Police, wrote an official letter to the minister on January 10 apologising for forces wanting to search his property during a crackdown in the capital that resulted in 81 people – but certainly not Sethy – being arrested.

“We regret this,” Savoeun wrote in the letter obtained yesterday. “[Officers] were confused and knocked on your fence because it looked similar to the residence rented by criminal groups pointed out to our technical and investigative group.”

A lack of preparation was to blame for the mistake and was something the National Police would learn from, Savoeun said.

“I ask Your Excellency to understand and forgive us,” he wrote.

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said Savoeun’s letter was a way of showing courtesy to the education minister, but the incident had not been a major one.

“Our police did not surrounded or enter the minister’s residence. They had just knocked on his fence door only. The minister did not come out,” he said.

“But on behalf of the National Police, he has written to apologise for the disturbance.”

Sethy and Ith The, spokesman for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Most of the 81 arrested in the crackdown are from Taiwan, some are from China and one is from Vietnam.

They have been accused of extorting money from residents of China and Taiwan, but have not yet been deported as planned because of a lack of available flights, but will be deported next week, said Major General Chhay Sinarith, director of the internal security police department at the Ministry of Interior.

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

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