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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Strong police presence in capital

Strong police presence in capital

As the people wait for the postelection wrangling to play out, the city has found itself hosting police units from outside the capital. Around 120 border police from Kandal province have been in the city since July 22. Officially they are here to maintain order, but in reality their job is to crack down on demonstrations.

Stationed along Sihanouk Boulevard and near the railway station, their job is to stand guard from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. None of those to whom the Post spoke are thrilled to be in Phnom Penh. In fact, they say they are fed up.

"I don't have the training for this," said Chheng, not his real name. "I am used to working along the border, not in the city."

They don't know why they have been here so long-they said they were simply following orders. And they don't know when they will be allowed to return home.

And despite the fact that they have not yet had to act, they admit their presence worries the city folk. That is because people usually associate a police presence with chaos or political problems.

Forty-year-old photographer Leng Kim Cheun, for instance, feels uncomfortable about them being here.

"I don't believe the police have come here to protect our security," he said. "They are here to crack down on demonstrations that could happen at any time."

His concerns were echoed by 50-year-old motodup Kuy Pheng. He said he supports non-violent demonstrations, but is worried the presence of the outsiders could turn such protests violent.

"They don't have any close feelings with the city people, so they can do anything to us," said Pheng.

Chan Saveth is the deputy head of human rights group ADHOC's investigation department. He said the NGO was not looking into the problem yet, as there had so far been no problems.

"As long as they don't cause chaos or violate human rights, then it's OK," he said, although he acknowledges their presence does unnerve people.

Well, it shouldn't, said the city's deputy police chief, Moung Khim: "Only wrongdoers will feel uneasy about them being here."

But back on Sihanouk Boulevard, Chheng and his colleagues are missing the planting season. He says they want to go home and join their families in the rice fields. Not only are they bored, but the food in the city is terrible, and they are still getting the same low monthly salary of just 70-80,000 riel (around $20).

"I really want to see the next government formed peacefully so that I can go home," Chheng said. "I miss my wife and children a lot."

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