Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kremlin promises to train police, worrying observers

Kremlin promises to train police, worrying observers

Russian President Vladimir Putin (centre) shakes hands with Prime Minister Hun Sen during a meeting in 2016. Russia has since promised to train Cambodia’s National Police in combating terrorism and cybercrime. afp
Russian President Vladimir Putin (centre) shakes hands with Prime Minister Hun Sen during a meeting in 2016. Russia has since promised to train Cambodia’s National Police in combating terrorism and cybercrime. afp

Kremlin promises to train police, worrying observers

The Russian government has promised to train Cambodia’s National Police in combating terrorism and cybercrime, a partnership that analysts suggest could lead to an increase in oppressive tactics.

After a closed-door meeting on Tuesday attended by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and Russia’s ambassador to Cambodia, Dmitry Tsvetkov, a Russian government official told reporters the country had offered to assist Cambodia in strengthening anti-terrorism efforts and crackdowns on online crimes.

“His Excellency expressed his intention in helping training the Cambodian National Police in keeping security [to keep pace with] the global trends in newly developed areas, such as anti-terrorism and cybercrime issues and other works related to security,” said Phat Phanith, director of the International Relations Department.

According to Phanith, at the meeting Kheng asked relevant Interior Ministry departments to come up with their requests for Russian assistance, which he could then present to the ambassador. Kheng “approves of the good intention of helping to train Cambodia National Police”, he said.

The meeting came on the same day as the release of a new report detailing how Cambodian laws muzzle online expression, and a day before Cambodia sank 10 spots on the World Press Freedom Index. In the past, Cambodia’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit has teamed with Russia’s government-owned news agency to help prevent a purported “colour revolution”.

While Prime Minister Hun Sen recently claimed to have foiled a “terrorist plot”, it has been panned by sceptical analysts as a fear-inducing fabrication to score political points. Meanwhile, in the online sphere, multiple people have been arrested recently for Facebook videos criticising the government, and a draft cybercrime law could further restrict dissent and online freedoms.

Russia has recently been criticised for its own crackdown on social media. Just last week, the Kremlin threatened to block Facebook and encrypted messaging service Telegram. State-sponsored Russian online troll factories have also been accused of interfering in the last US election.

The former Soviet Union has “long proven its worth in the field of internal security, controlling cyber-crime and engaging in repression”, according to Paul Chambers, a lecturer at Naresuan University in Thailand.

“Since 2016 Hun Sen appears to have adopted a Gestapo Chief approach to silencing dissent,” he said in an email.

“Russia’s cyber-assistance and other oppressive methods might help Cambodia’s Prime Minister to achieve his goal of absolute control. What Hun Sen can learn from Putin is how to better use military and computer tactics to fully quell his opponents.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Baby saved as mother is lost to Covid

    Newborn baby Neth David has had a rough start in the world. His mother, Vong Daneth, was seven months pregnant when she contracted a severe case of Covid-19. When it became clear to her doctors that she would not survive, they performed a cesarean section

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • Hun Sen: Get 12-17 age group ready for Covid jabs

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has told parents of children aged 12-17 in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Preah Sihanouk to get them ready for vaccinations soon. “There is a need to vaccinate children and youths aged 12 to 17. According to the statistics provided

  • Covid rattles Phnom Penh’s retail landscape through H1

    The Covid-19 pandemic has rocked the retail landscape in Phnom Penh, with anxiety around infection risk keeping the masses away from shopping malls and driving retail consumption down by nearly five per cent in the first half of this year, compared to July-December 2020, according to