The Phnom Penh municipal police chief has warned officials involved in drug crackdowns and those who received complaints to improve themselves. However, civil society sees the measures as ineffective.
Deputy National Police chief and Phnom Penh municipal police chief Sar Thet said during an October 19 meeting with police officers in Chamkar Mon and Meanchey districts at the Phnom Penh Municipal Police Commissariat that people lose confidence in the authorities when they fail to crack down on crime.
“The national police forces and our families said [we] are drug dealers, so [we] must [be willing] to crack down on crime. If we know of a crime but continue to delay for months and years, then the people will have no more trust in us,” said Thet.
He criticised Meanchey district authorities for day and night drug transaction cases on street 60, despite being informed by callers.
He ordered the relevant authorities to crack down on the crime and told more responsible officials to encourage lower level ones to investigate and warn them not to be involved or conspire with drug traffickers.
“When it comes to crackdowns, they confiscate everything, including drugs, motorbikes and arrest people. But, [the suspects] have money, so they simply offer $4 or $5, or a 10 dollar bill and [the police] are gone, with only the drugs remaining."
“Then, [they] come to make a report. That’s the problem. It has paved the way for some corrupt officials to deal with such things, and this encourages such crimes.”
Along with raising the drug issue, Thet also pointed out that some officials who received complaints failed to conduct investigations thoroughly enough to the extent that the people were unhappy.
He warned officials that they could face disciplinary action if they failed to improve.
“When people ask 10 words and we answer one word, [they] turn their faces away. When people offer perks, just turn them down."
“Otherwise, people will hate the police and keep saying, ‘do not go to the police for help – it’s useless – they won’t help us. They do not even talk to us.’ So, do not differentiate between rich or poor, or other [categories], we are all Khmer citizens. So do not keep silent.
“We must investigate and research. If we can’t solve the [cases,] crimes will increase, year after year. We must quickly go down to the crime scene to encourage the victims. By doing so, the people will have faith [in us],” said Thet.
He also said some officials had hidden cases to get kickbacks.
But, Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey said the Phnom Penh police warnings and recommendations would be ineffective.
He said the lower level officials who conducted the crackdowns could be punished by upper-level officials for acting without authorisation, or not providing resources or sufficient material.
“The current system makes it difficult for the lower level. When the lower level does something that affects the upper level, they could be pulled out like cabbage,” said Chey.
In the past, a Phnom Penh police official, who declined to be named, alleged that some police officers arrested drug users and made a report alleging they were drug traffickers so as to extort bribes from their relatives.
“And if they failed to give the money, they would be sent to court. Some police officials also conspired with drug traffickers because they get bribes from [them],” he said.