Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema has called for police in the capital to stop treating the children of the rich and powerful with impunity, reassuring officials that they will not be demoted for arresting anyone who commits a crime.
Speaking during a monthly meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Kep Chuktema said a widespread fear of retribution for arresting well-connected individuals was impeding police efforts to fight crime.
“The gangster issue is not a small problem and most gangsters are the children of high-ranking officials and powerful officials,” he said.
“Your position or rank will not move because you report about [high-ranking officials’] children’s problems.”
He noted that there was a clear difference in the way police treated those who did not have powerful connections.
“You are afraid of reporting about the high-ranking officials’ children doing something wrong, but the normal people you arrest and make suffer,” he said.
Referencing a speech last week in which Prime Minister Hun Sen made an outspoken public appeal for his wayward nephew Hun Chea to mend his ways and return to his family, Kep Chuktema appealed to police to be brave enough to at least report to him the activities of well-connected criminals.
“All of you heard already, right, that the Prime Minister made an announcement blaming his own nephew through the television, but all of you are afraid of reporting [well-connected perpetrators] to me; just report,” he said.
Kep Chuktema said there were a total of about 2,000 outstanding warrants that officials did not pursue in 2010.
In an effort to bring the lapsed cases to court, the governor announced that officials would receive incentive bonuses of 250,000 riels (US$62.50) for each arrest made.
The sum would represent a significant bonus to some low-ranking municipal police officials, who receive a salary of about 200,000 riels ($50) per month.
Municipal police chief Touch Naruth said during the meeting that 18 “gangsters” were arrested in the capital last year, while 17 were educated and released into the care of their parents.
“We have some lack of practice in the area, even though we had some successes,” he said, adding that growth and migration in the capital meant that local officials needed to remain vigilant and in touch with their communities.
“Village and police officials don’t pay enough attention to control the newcomers in their areas,” he said.
Touch Naruth could not be reached for further comment yesterday.