STEPPED up weapons control check points in the capital are proving to be both a headache
and a boon to underpaid and fed-up police manning the barricades around-the-clock.
Working on the checkpoints means dealing with drunk, abusive and armed military but
the work also brings in much needed extra cash, police admit.
Drunken RCAF army officials trying to speed through checkpoints at night cause the
most trouble, according to Kung Davuth, chief of police at the lucrative Route 5
checkpoint near Chroy Changva Bridge.
"We often meet drunken soldiers when we work at night time...they come from
bars driving fast and abuse us...shooting in the air or near police heads when we
try to stop them to search," Davuth said.
"Last month, we were suddenly surrounded by a group of RCAF after we had seized
an unlicensed pistol from one soldier," said Davuth.
The soldier called friends to help him on his mobile phone and a truckload of soldiers
arrived at the post and took the gun back by force, said Davuth, adding that he believed
the soldiers were backed by a RCAF chief of staff department official.
"How can we work? We gave the gun back to them in order to avoid armed conflict
between the two sides," he said.
Davuth said police are powerless, as they are not permitted to shoot to stop bandits
or renegade RCAF, who push through checkpoints to avoid being searched.
"We can search only the good people... the bad people never allow us to search
Despite the difficulties Davuth claims the number of illegal weapons in the capital
is dropping, with only one or two often licensed guns now being found, compared to
4-5 seizures of illegal weapons a night in past months.
And working the weapons checkpoints has other advantages, especially at Davuth's
spot near Chroy Changva bridge the gateway of businessmen working the Route 5 Phnom
Penh -Poipet trade route.
"Sometimes, when we are sleeping at midnight, cargo truck drivers wake us up
and give us 10,000 riel...they say they feel sorry for us when they see us sleeping
under a tree on the road side."
Street vendors working the same beat believe check point police near Chroy Changva
bridge are making anything from 10,000 to over 50,000 riel a day from Route 5's steady
"I'm not sure but I have heard that the [checkpoint] boss gets between twenty
to thirty thousand riel some days," said a woman selling cigarettes nearby.
The donations are totally voluntary though, insists Davuth, and weapons-check police
are often warned by their better paid superiors not to take even one or two thousand
riel from passing taxis and logging trucks.
"Absolutely, we are not allowed to take money from people, but if people give
to us we have to take it...we do not steal money from their pockets," he said.
Police say until government salaries are increased and paid on time some police will
be forced to collect money on the beat.
They say especially BLDP and Funcinpec police are short of cash having returned from
the border, they are often renting housing and are so short of money they can't even
rent moto-taxis to travel to work.
Ma Kim Hourt, a former ANKI soldier who works the same checkpoint said he plans to
quit the job after the upcoming elections because his salary is not enough to pay
his 50,000 riel rent and support his family.
Hourt said his 33,000 riel salary is often late and that deductions of up to 12,000
riel are made from paypackets of police who need to take a salary advance while waiting
for late pays.
"At the moment I just keep working and wait," Hourt said.