Nearly 10,000 village guards will be deployed to provide security and protect public safety during the June 5 commune council elections. The guards will be used to supplement the National Police and the armed forces, according to National Police chief Neth Savoeun.

Savoeun announced the figure during an April 6 meeting on safeguarding all stages of the elections. He said that in some provinces, there are not enough police forces or Military Police to secure the election stations, hence the use of village guards.

He cited Kampong Speu province as an example, saying there are more polling stations than police officers. Therefore, village guards will be deployed while the police forces are held as a reserve, ready to respond to any incidents that may occur.

He instructed the provincial police to train those who will provide security during the election – giving priority to the guards who had volunteered.

“Each provincial administration will request training from each provincial election commission. Our provincial forces will then train village guards at the district and commune level,” he said.

Savoeun added that guards will be deployed at the headquarters of the National Election Committee (NEC) in Phnom Penh, wherever voter lists are posted, at polling and vote counting stations, as well as where ballot papers are stored.

National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun could not be reached for comment on April 7. But in late March, he told The Post that while training would be provided to village guards, they should not be considered the main security force. They were purely there to support the police and Military Police, and would only be based in their home villages and communes.

Kang Savang, a monitor with the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), said on April 7 that using village guards to protect the elections was a new development, noting that only police and Military Police “with good training” were used in previous elections.

He was concerned that some untrained village guards had already carried out duties for which they were not trained – which in at least one case had resulted in violence being used against protesters.

“I know the NEC can select any people they want, but it is important that they are well trained and understand their roles. There must be discipline – and penalties for those who commit wrongdoing,” Savang added.

NEC spokesman Som Sorida said on April 7 that the decision to deploy village guards was due to the fact that the number of election stations had increased from around 22,000 to more than 23,600.

According to election law, there must be three guards at each election station. One of them will patrol inside, while two provide security outside, he added.

In addition to the election stations, he said security guards would also be needed at the NEC headquarters, the 25 capital and provincial election offices, the 204 district and town offices, and each of the 1,652 communes.