The Phnom Penh Municipal police chief on Monday ordered all officers to desist from engaging in official business while not in uniform, citing public unrest and confusion caused by officers in street clothes stopping suspected wrongdoers.
Speaking at a meeting where he also addressed broader issues such as heightened security during the King Father’s funeral and greater respect for suspects’ rights, Police Chief General Chuon Sovann threatened officers with disciplinary action should they fail to abide by the new regulations, which didn’t extend to undercover officers, and were intended to “to avoid the frightening of ordinary people”.
“If [officers] are travelling without uniforms and see the suspects or perpetrators somewhere, they should contact local police who are on duty nearby for intervention or cooperation,” he said to the 240 district and commune police chiefs and deputy police chiefs who attended the meeting at police headquarters.
“I warn that those policemen or police officers who wear civilian clothes and stay or hide on the streets or somewhere else to stop, check or catch people... must stop doing it immediately, because it has frightened people,” he added.
Suon Bunthoeun, a project coordinator for the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said he welcomed Sovann’s orders, but had doubts as to whether they would actually be implemented.
“I have noted that so far, there were policemen wearing civilian clothes and driving motorbikes to run after taxis or motorbike drivers in order to extort money from them in Phnom Penh,” he said.
“And their activities looked very bad, and seemed very anarchic.”
He added, “On behalf of civil society, I appreciate his order, but to ensure that police will obey their discipline or respect this order, I would suggest that they should follow up on the real implementation of his orders.”
In addition to the uniform directive, Sovann also ordered police to exercise greater control over their weapons in an attempt to prevent unauthorised shooting during the King Father’s funeral period, and called for better treatment of suspects during their arrests and interrogations.
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