Civil society organisations called on the authorities to punish individuals who disguise themselves as environment officials to extort money from residents in Kratie province, saying it would restore the image of the Ministry of Environment and set an example for others.

The calls came after the Kratie provincial environment department issued a December 26 letter denying that a man who presented himself as an environment official was carrying out the official work of the department.

The man stopped a motorcycle trailer carrying beds and extorted money from the driver in O’Krieng commune of Kratie province’s Sambor district, according to the letter.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director for monitoring at rights group LICADHO, said impersonating an environment official was a serious issue and damaged the reputation of real officials. He deemed it necessary to conduct a thorough investigation to ascertain the true facts of the case, to avoid confusion among members of the public.

“Impersonating an official in order to demand money from the public is a serious offence and affects public order. It is necessary to take measures to protect the safety and security of residents. Such act is detrimental to the image of a national institution, in this case the environment ministry,” he added.

Sam Ath suggested that the relevant institutions, particularly the ministry, launch a thorough investigation into the case and prosecute the offender to the fullest extent of the law.

Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said on December 27 that the ministry and the relevant institutions were taking action, and working to identify the offender.

“The department of environment is carrying out a thorough investigation to find the man who impersonated one of our officials. The investigators appeal for any member of the public who may have information to come forward,” he added.