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Officials hunt police impersonators

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Fake police equipment is displayed at a shop in Phnom Penh’s infamous Teuk Thla market in 2017. Post staff

Officials hunt police impersonators

Authorities are on the hunt for a group that allegedly impersonated police and extorted a large sum of cash from a suspect in exchange for his freedom while he was under “custody”.

The exchange was brought to the public’s attention after a Facebook user going by the name Visal Peth posted a video alleging that the suspects, who impersonated anti-drug police, extorted $2,500 from one of his colleagues while he was riding a motorbike in the Boeung Kak area in Tuol Kok district.

Peth claimed that the group of plain-clothed men carrying walkie-talkies and with police motorcycle number plates intercepted his colleague as he was riding his motorcycle and threatened to place him in handcuffs and send him to the police station for further procedures.

“They accused him of being a drug buyer. He did not dare to argue because he was afraid of them. He did as he was told and was extorted out of $2,500.

“Many people, not just my friends, have been extorted out of money. When I ride home on my motorcycle, I often see them catching and beating [victims] in the middle of the road. If [victims] resist, they beat him more.

“When they are followed and pulled over by [plain-clothes police impersonators] they must give money in exchange for their release,” Peth said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police on Monday confirmed through Facebook that plain-clothed individuals who frequently posed as drug enforcement officers in the Boeung Kak area were not police personnel.

The Facebook post said officials were on the lookout for the suspects to ensure they do not continue harassing people.

National Police chief Neth Savoeun told The Post that the National Police would take disciplinary and legal actions against any official that was caught extorting money.

“I allowed Anti-Drug officials to look into the case. We need to investigate first, before making a decision. Whenever offences are committed, we will follow the law and discipline offenders,” he said.

A similar complaint has been sent to Phnom Penh municipal police chief Sar Thet, local media reported.

The complaint said two unidentified victims were travelling home from a construction site when seven plain-clothed police impersonators approached them behind Neakvoan Pagoda to extort money.

“The impersonators on three motorcycles came from behind, handcuffed the victims and rushed to beat them … they kicked them in the stomach twice.

“They searched for illegal drugs and they accused them of buying narcotics when they had never used drugs at all,” the complaint said.

Shortly after, the complaint added, one of their accomplices on another Honda motorcycle stopped by and handed a packet believed to contain illegal drugs to the victims and told them to hold it up so they could take a photo.

The man threatened to beat them if they refused to have their photo taken with the package. When they declined, they were beaten until they could no longer endure the pain and ultimately agreed to pose for the photograph and then pay $800 in exchange for their freedom.

Sar Thet acknowledged that there were those who impersonated police personnel to extort money in exchange for their release.

He said the municipal police had cracked down on such cases in the past, but sometimes officials abused their authority.

“Some officers who cracked down on drugs overstepped their authority and we have instructed them not to do so anymore. Some victims contacted the municipal police on our Facebook page and we have already acted to address the case,” he said.

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