Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Seang Kosal was relieved of his post yesterday in favour of the current Phnom Penh municipal police deputy chief, Chuon Narin, one day after Interior Minister Sar Kheng excoriated Kosal for his ineffectual management of a recent rash of high-profile crimes.
According to a draft of the transfer document, the official ceremony will be performed Monday by the deputy director of the ministry’s personnel department, Major General Hean Sareoun.
Speaking at the close of an anti-drug conference Wednesday, Kheng issued a blistering broadside against Kosal, accusing him of sleeping on the job.
“Things have happened, but they take no notice until the orders have been issued from the top level and operations teams have been sent, which means they are bad,” Kheng said, in an apparent reference to a special investigations team sent to Sihanoukville to look into recent crimes against foreigners.
“And what does the police chief [Seang Kosal] do? He sleeps in the province and does not open his eyes to see [what is going on] in Koh Rong, [where] foreigners are robbed and shot,” he continued, alluding to a violent March 19 robbery on the island.
“Cambodia looks so bad.… When we advertise [it as the Kingdom of Wonder], ‘wonder’ in what way? If [tourists] come, they are robbed and treated badly,” he concluded.
Ministry of Interior spokesman General Khieu Sopheak confirmed yesterday that the recent attention-grabbing crimes – particularly robberies of foreigners and criminal behaviour among the coastal province’s Russian expatriate community – were the reason behind Kosal’s transfer.
“There are some problems in the province. Because of these reasons, the ministry decided to appoint the Chhuon Narin as [Preah Sihanouk province] police chief,” Sopheak said. “Seang Kosal, former provincial police chief, will be transferred to the ministry. He will be appointed as deputy director of the tourism department.”
Narin, Kosal and Kosal’s deputy, Kol Phally, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Chhit Sokhon, himself a target of Kheng’s dressing-down on Wednesday, declined to comment, saying he was too busy.
Yesterday, General Neth Savoeun, general commissioner of National Police, convened with police chiefs from Phnom Penh and around the country, as well as department experts, to discuss measures to measures to tighten security – particularly for investors and foreign tourists – noting that early 2015 had been marked by a spike in crime.
Deputy National Police Chief Lieutenant General Kirt Chantharith told reporters after the meeting that while the number of crimes had decreased in March, incidents of serious crimes, such as armed robberies, had increased – to the detriment of the police force’s reputation.
“The national police chief cannot let things like this happen anymore,” he said.
Chantharith later added that Narin was known for his strong track record of handling serious cases in Phnom Penh, even among officers in Sihanoukville.
“He is suited for this position based on the experience and achievements he’s made for years,” Chantharith said. “We believe he has ability to do better than the previous police chief, and when we raised his name, many local policemen [in Preah Sihanouk] supported him.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA