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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Top cop suggests family members should get priority for police jobs

National Police chief Neth Savoeun (centre) attends an internal security meeting at the Ministry of Interior in Phnom Penh earlier this yeara. National Police
National Police chief Neth Savoeun (centre) attends an internal security meeting at the Ministry of Interior in Phnom Penh earlier this yeara. National Police

Top cop suggests family members should get priority for police jobs

National Police Chief Neth Savoeun has appeared to acknowledge rampant nepotism within the police force, calling for slightly stricter regulations going forward, but nonetheless saying children and relatives of civil servants should still be prioritised for police positions over other candidates.

In remarks given at a National Police meeting on August 26, a recording of which was obtained yesterday, Savoeun seemed to be giving his subordinates guidelines on how to prioritise relatives without completely disregarding official standards. “If they are a little heavy or a little too light or a little short, we can take them,” he said.

But Savoeun warned against taking candidates that are blatantly unqualified, saying if the candidates are “round potatoes” they should let them pass or fail the test on their own merit.

He also acknowledged that, in the past, he had intervened for family members of civil servants, signing forms allowing them to become police officers.

“I am bored of signing them,” he said, claiming a signature alone should no longer be enough to enter the force.

He went on to say family members of cops and other civil servants must still take formal exams, but if they get an equal score to another candidate, they should be given priority. “They can take them first because they are children of our officials.”

Attempts to reach Savouen were unsuccessful yesterday.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said he was unsurprised by the comments, but was nonetheless concerned to hear how far corruption had penetrated, adding that the potential for nepotism was “wrong” and “unlawful”.

Additional reporting by Andrew Nachemson

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John Lowrie's picture

Nepotism and cronyism are not seen for what they are right across Cambodian society, as one of three pillars of ills. It is a universal practice in most forms of employment, especially the garment sector, to arrange to bring in more family members. We also found the practice endemic in a human rights NGO. Sometimes the family connection is well-disguised through the way names are changed. I queried this with a prominent Cambodian leader at the time. She asked me "Do you want to deprive us of our human rights by not accepting family members"? She then explained that (a) family members could be more trusted, and (b) counted upon to continue working if funds were short and salaries not paid. When we first introduced the Cambodia Co-operation Committee's Governance Project, the scheme to improve ethics in NGOs, in fact (and against my advice) the early version excluded nepotism for that kind of logic. The present scheme does include it but I am not convinced that it is embraced widely and fully. Sometimes this debate is painted as one of Western versus Asian values. It is neither. Values are universal. The point is if one person is favoured by virtue of family; or personal and political connections, or though money changing hands, then others are deprived of their right to be considered on merit.

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