Phnom Penh’s military police plan to use a taekwondo-training scheme initiated by the South Korean Embassy to learn how to crack down on protests using jump kicks rather than batons and bullets.
National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito told the Post on Friday that training in the martial art, which is to begin next month, is intended “to strengthen the capacity of the military police forces in cracking down as well as in challenging perpetrators without using weapons”.
On December 23, Tito said, Choi Yong Sok, a taekwondo coach, and representatives of the Korean Embassy donated mats, robes, belts and other training equipment to the unit.
Yong Sok was the trainer of Sorn Seavmey, who won a gold medal for Cambodia in the Asian Games in October.
According to Tito, Phnom Penh military police’s own taekwondo coach is currently “conducting tests on all military police officers in all 12 districts”.
Two officers chosen from each district and five from the unit’s central office will receive “direct training” from two South Korean coaches on February 15.
They will then pass on their newfound skills to their peers.
As well as being used in crackdowns, the training will enhance the health of officers, Tito said.
However, some were not convinced.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said the training they should be receiving “would be on the relevant UN guidelines on the legal use of force and what constitutes excessive force in policing, and essential elements of human rights standards”.
“Only after that kind of rights training is given, really sinks in, and then starts to have an effect, would it be appropriate to consider further taekwondo training.”
Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said the emphasis on “cracking down” has always been a “major concern”, as security forces often quash protests with an “aim to maim”.
When asked if she felt it would be necessary for protesters to learn martial arts for self-defence, Sochua said that people are “already doing the right thing: passive resistance”.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA