Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday ordered commune police forces to “explain and educate” citizens on the “mistakes” of the now-dissolved opposition party, and to bolster the presence of authorities in local communities by adopting local security guard units.
At a convention of local police officials yesterday on Diamond Island, the minister lauded the actions of local security guards in 2013 and 2014, when irregular forces repeatedly and brutally beat journalists and non-violent activists at opposition, land rights and environmental rallies, and at times sued protesters to send them to jail.
These guards still will not receive salaries, arms or a position for their work, but Kheng suggested police officials include security guards in their exercises, coining a new “department of police and security guards”.
“We are reforming in another stage to get more forces to participate in maintaining local security to ensure the security guard forces we have created already will not disappear,” he said.
A Daun Penh district security guard, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said guards in all 12 capital districts are contracted by the district governor, receiving a salary of 400,000 to 600,000 riel (about $100 to $150) per month. He said he must supplement his 500,000 riel salary just to get by.
“We have difficulties in our living because our salary is less and we do not have a network, so we remain the security guards like this,” he said yesterday.
The minister also told national and local police forces that it was their responsibility to instruct people of the purported dangers of jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha and his now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, which Kheng accused of organising a foreign-led “colour revolution”.
The government previously used radio, television and social media to communicate these messages, Kheng said, but he wanted to ensure that all Cambodians heard the government’s reasons for dismantling the only viable opposition to the CPP, as well as other critical voices.
“If, at the local level, people do not understand and they do some activities that affect the country’s security and stability, it is your concern . . . and the government’s concern,” he said.
Boeung Kak community representative Chan Puthisak said he saw the interior minister’s speech as a direct threat to activists given security guards’ history of violently attacking demonstrators.
“In the past, they do not serve the people’s interests because they usually surveil the people, use violence on the people and arrest the people. People do not dare to do anything right now because of the restrictions on both rights and gatherings.”