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Call for tighter ATM security

A Mekong Bank ATM in Phnom Penh.
A Mekong Bank ATM in Phnom Penh. Sreng Meng Srun

Call for tighter ATM security

A municipal spokesman responded yesterday to local media claims that Phnom Penh’s governor was considering issuing an order to remove stand-alone ATMs from public areas across the capital, clarifying that the governor had only called for financial institutions to provide better security measures at these locations.

“We are not issuing an order for financial institutions to remove their ATMs from public places,” City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said. “What the governor said was that he wants to work with banks and MFIs on specific measures to improve the security of the machines.”

Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong came under fire on social media earlier in the day after a local news outlet quoted him discussing the possibility of removing cash machines from public areas in order to maintain order and safety. The report emerged from the governor’s closed-door meeting with local officials after a stand-alone Canadia Bank ATM was destroyed by explosives on Saturday in what officials believe was an attempted robbery.

According to Measpheakdey, the governor had only suggested that financial institutions should install ATMs in secure locations, and that the machines should be equipped with security cameras and attended by security guards.

Security has been a cause for concern at ATMs, particularly those in isolated locations and late at night.

Last August, a man was shot twice and left seriously injured by robbers as he exited an ATM in central Phnom Penh late at night. Other recent cases have seen unattended cash machines targeted by thieves and vandals.

However, banking executives insist that adequate measures have already been taken to ensure the safety and security of their ATM networks, and have expressed reluctance to pick up the costs of hiring security guards.

In Channy, president of Acleda Bank, which boasts the country’s largest ATM network, voiced confidence that the bank would not have to fork out additional funds to secure or remove its cash machines as it had already fully complied with all requirements. He pointed out that all 325 of Acleda Bank’s cash machines are monitored by security cameras. In addition, the bank’s staff regularly checks the machines.

Channy suggested that as financial operators have to pay a fee to the government for installing ATMs in public places, authorities should help protect these facilities.

“It’s better that we find ways to maintain security rather than removing machines,” he said. “ATMs are very useful and the service is very popular in many countries, so we need to help it develop faster.”

Keo Borann, chief executive of AMK Microfinance, which operates 68 ATMs nationwide, said the Kingdom’s financial operators always follow proper safety guidelines when considering ATM locations. He noted that only five or six of AMK’s cash machines were situated outside of a company branch, and that they were all installed near private businesses or in locations with many passersby.

“It doesn’t make sense to require having staff standing by all ATM machines,” he said. “It is better if the authorities themselves decided to increase the security at ATM locations, because they are very helpful for customers wanting to have access to financial services.”

Cambodia had a total of 1,118 ATMs as of the end of 2015, according to central bank figures.

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