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News article prompts lawsuit threat

Police officers attend a meeting earlier this year at a Kratie province police station. National Police
Police officers attend a meeting earlier this year at a Kratie province police station. National Police

News article prompts lawsuit threat

Kratie provincial police chief Lon Sophat said yesterday he would file a complaint against the CPP-aligned Kampuchea Thmey Daily newspaper after it published what it said was a detailed list of prices officials must pay him for positions on the force.

The now-deleted article was posted online on Thursday and said it was based on a document from a disgruntled officer. The document described the chief as in the pocket of the logging business, and identified him as a nephew of deputy military commander Kun Kim.

To secure a position as a police chief in Kratie town or the districts of Prek Prasap, Chhlong or Sambor, cost from $12,000 to $15,000, it claimed. The same position in Chet Borei or Snuol – two hotbeds of logging – were costlier, at $20,000 to $30,000, it said.

Lower-level positions were said to be cheaper. To secure a deputy district police chief job, officials had to pay $3,000. To become head of a bureau in a provincial police department cost $3,000 to $5,000.

Sophat, the police chief, said by telephone he had, in fact, not yet made any appointments, and so could not be guilty of taking money to do so. He said he believed his recent order to crack down on gambling could have caused resentment against him.

“Come now to investigate locally whether I have changed city or district police chiefs. So far, until today, I have not transferred or promoted anyone, and this information ruins my honour,” Sophat said. “I am now preparing a document to file a complaint.”

Hy Borin, editor-in-chief of Kampuchea Thmey, said he had retracted the story as it had led to controversy, and would not say if he still stood behind its substance. He said that Sophat had the right to file a complaint, but would be better served by clarifying the issue.

“We received the document from an anonymous source,” Borin said, adding that the detailed list of prices seemed credible to the newspaper. “We requested to interview the provincial police chief, but he did not reply, and then we decided to publish it.”

Preap Kol, director of Transparency International Cambodia, said that the practice of higher officials requiring kickbacks for positions likely to offer opportunities for further corruption was not unusual.

“Tying promotion of or offering positions with the amount of money/bribery is quite common in the current Cambodian government administration system and political parties, especially for lucrative positions or assignments (which provide great opportunity for the appointees to earn much money),” Kol said via email.

“But such practice has never been visible, officially documented or written,” he explained.

CNRP lawmaker Keo Phirum, who represents Kratie, said he had not heard anything about anger over kickbacks inside the provincial police force, but that he rarely expected to get such news.

“It could be an inside CPP thing that they keep very secret. If it was going on, you have to talk inside the CPP networks,” Phirum said. He said he could not comment on the claims without the document.

“The CPP has had many problems inside their networks in the past, with the members making contributions to get positions, but I have no evidence to say that is happening in Kratie,” he said.

According to the Cambodian Center for Independent Media’s “Who Owns the Media?” database, Kampuchea Thmey is owned by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana. It rarely – if ever – targets high-level officials in its coverage about claims of corruption.

Yet it is not the first time this year it has published and retracted an article highly critical of high-level officials. In May, its home page featured an article asking why there had been no arrests in the 1999 murder of popular music video actor Piseth Pilika.

Pilika was rumoured to be the mistress of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and diaries released after her death claimed she received death threats from his wife, Bun Rany. The article contrasted the lack of investigations in that case with thorough inquiries into claims deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha took a mistress.

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