Phnom Penh’s military police officers are shedding their uniforms and giving their assault rifles a rest in favour of white robes and hand-to-hand combat under a taekwondo-training scheme initiated by the South Korean Embassy.
In a post on the official Facebook page of Phnom Penh Military Police Commander Roth Sreang last month, photos show embassy officials donating dozens of mats, robes and other training equipment to the unit.
“The municipal police began practicing the martial art called Taekwondo for extra security to protect citizens,” the Facebook post reads. “After receiving donations from representatives of the South Korean Embassy, including materials and equipment for practicing Taekwondo, the police headquarters has started training the capital’s police forces in Taekwondo and additional skills.”
Phnom Penh’s military police are alleged to have committed scores of human rights abuses in recent years, including bearing responsibility for the deaths of at least five people during garment worker strikes in January last year.
Brigadier General Sreang could not be reached yesterday, while military police spokesman Kheng Tito did not respond to requests for comment.
The Korean martial art of taekwondo has gained popularity in recent months after Sorn Seavmey won gold for Cambodia in the Asian Games in October.
Sreang said the December donations were not the first set of training equipment provided by South Korea, according to the Facebook page.
A spokesman for the South Korean Embassy said the scheme was part of a wider push to promote the martial art abroad.
“We have made efforts to spread taekwondo all over the world, because it is good for health, physical and spiritual,” the spokesman said.
Another embassy official said that an “expert” had been hired to lead the training, but would not name the individual.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA