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New Year handouts begin

Members of Sok Kong’s family hand out donations to police officers yesterday in Phnom Penh during the lead up to Chinese New Year.
Members of Sok Kong’s family hand out donations to police officers yesterday in Phnom Penh during the lead up to Chinese New Year. Heng Chivoan

New Year handouts begin

The family of Khmer-Chinese tycoon Sok Kong handed out offerings ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 riel (about $1.25 to $7.50) to hundreds of police, military police and everyday citizens yesterday in an apparent marking of Chinese New Year.

Anti-corruption advocates have long criticised the handouts to authorities, but Huot Chanyaran, Daun Penh district police chief, angrily rejected questions over whether his officers took money as “stupid”.

“Chinese people do it every year, but I don’t know if my police went there . . . I was not there,” he said.

Chev Hak, chief of traffic police in Phnom Penh, confirmed his officers received money from the tycoon’s family.

“Every year, Chinese families in Phnom Penh always give ang pao [red envelopes of money] to our police . . . We are invited to go there and it’s normal, I think,” he said.

“Our deputy prime minister Sok An also gives ang pao to police during the Chinese New Year,” added Hak.

However, unwanted attention – and attendant criticism – has led to some cancelled gift-giving events in the past.

San Chey, executive director for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability renewed that criticism, saying the practice “can damage the image of the armed forces”.

Political analyst Ou Virak went further: “Can officers get money from people and stay independent and partial? The answer is no,” he said. “It should be seen as a form of corruption. It should be outlawed.

The credibility of the institutions needs to be protected.”

Additional reporting by Brent Crane

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