Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Crowd-control unit releases video footage of live-fire shooting exercise

Crowd-control unit releases video footage of live-fire shooting exercise

Officers with the Municipal Police’s Intervention Unit conduct target practice yesterday in Phnom Penh. Fresh News
Officers with the Municipal Police’s Intervention Unit conduct target practice yesterday in Phnom Penh. Fresh News

Crowd-control unit releases video footage of live-fire shooting exercise

A crowd-control unit of the capital’s police force yesterday released footage of a live-fire practice exercise intended to bolster its ability to “protect the legitimate government”, a display that comes less than a year before a hotly anticipated national election and follows months of government threats directed at would-be protesters.

In a demonstration analysts described as worrying, and which an opposition lawmaker called threatening, officers from the Phnom Penh Municipal Police’s Intervention Unit conducted firing drills at a police base in Por Sen Chey, which were captured in photos and a video published by government-aligned outlet Fresh News.

In the clip, half a dozen policemen begin by firing AK-47s in the prone position at targets some 100 metres away, before walking downrange in formation with their sights trained and dropping to one knee to fire again.

According to Fresh News, Prom Channa, deputy chief of the Municipal Police’s general staff and head of discipline and order, said the exercise, led by the capital’s top cop General Choun Sovann, involved 150 men who were drilled to shoot while in the prone position, standing and moving. The training, he said, was to “strengthen capabilities”, and was necessary for “successful operations”.

“If we do not strengthen the capability of how to use weapons, we will not obtain success in order to keep and protect the legitimate government and people,” he was quoted as saying.

However, observers were left aghast at such tactics being taught to a unit primarily tasked with dealing with unarmed crowds. “It’s unbelievable to see images of intervention police from Phnom Penh being trained to ‘control crowds’ using live ammunition,” Licadho’s deputy director of advocacy, Naly Pilorge, said in a message.

“Intervention police are supposed to maintain public order and protect citizens and property using force as the very last option, not learn how to shoot citizens who gather or express grievances publicly.”

The target practice comes amid a barrage of hostile rhetoric by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials directed at the opposition and its supporters.

Officers with the Municipal Police’s crowd control unit conduct target practice yesterday in Phnom Penh. Fresh News
Officers with the Municipal Police’s crowd control unit conduct target practice yesterday in Phnom Penh. Fresh News

Hun Sen on Thursday threatened to “smash” any protesters who disputed the result of next year’s national election, comments which echoed a statement by the Minister for Social Affairs who said the government would bludgeon such people with bamboo poles – a policy he attributed to the premier.

Ahead of June’s commune elections, Defence Minister Tea Banh warned he would “smash the teeth” of would-be demonstrators who did not accept the results, and other members of the security forces have repeatedly and publicly argued for the necessity of using force to thwart so-called “colour revolutions”, remarks often read by observers as thinly veiled references to the opposition.

Reached yesterday, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Cheam Channy said though training officers was necessary, he saw the live-fire exercises as a threat to the party and people.

“Using this type of force to crack down on peaceful protesters, it’s a violation of demonstrators’ rights,” he said.

A research fellow at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, Kevin Nauen, said the training and recent violent rhetoric, including framing the opposition as a threat to the country, appeared to be an effort to politicise the security services and normalise the use of force.

“It is essential that [Hun Sen] normalises the idea of the use of force to defend the regime. Once socialised to accept it as a legitimate way of thinking, then putting it into practice is not difficult,” Nauen said in a message.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, however, dismissed the suggestion that the training constituted a threat.

“We protect the legitimate government and constitution,” he said. “It is the ones who are against the law and want to topple the government – they are the ones who want the country to return to war.”

Additional reporting by Shaun Turton


  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Vietnamese workers in Koh Kong questioned

    The General Department of Immigration (GDI) is questioning 49 Vietnamese nationals who were working illegally in Koh Kong province to build a case and send them back to Vietnam, its Department of Investigation and Procedure director Kem Sarin said on Thursday. GDI forces and provincial authorities

  • Preah Vihear court drops charges against villagers

    The Preah Vihear Provincial Court has dropped all charges against eight ethnic Kuoy villagers who were in a land dispute with the Hengfu Group Sugar Industry Co Ltd since 2014. Wednesday’s decision was made by the judge who tried the case on June 10. The eight

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Residents ordered to remove structures on Phnom Penh’s canal

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng has ordered authorities to act against the perpetrators who built houses along the Luo 5 canal in Meanchey district. The municipal administration plans to create a committee to solve the matter. The order was given on Wednesday while Sreng led

  • ‘On the offensive’: Cambodia to load up on loans to stimulate economy

    As the dust settles on the economy, Cambodia comes to grips with what needs to be done to turn the economy around, starting with a big shopping list for credit ‘We are going on the offensive,” Vongsey Vissoth, Ministry of Economy and Finance permanent secretary

  • Eighty replacement peacekeepers set for Mali mission despite Covid

    Eighty Cambodian blue helmet soldiers who completed the peacekeeping mission under the UN umbrella in Mali will return to Cambodia on Friday, said the Centre for Peacekeeping Forces spokeswoman Kosal Malida. “To protect their families and communities from the Covid-19 pandemic, the 80 are required to