The National Police yesterday shuffled around 13 deputy commissioners, with well-connected newcomer Dy Vichea put in charge of central security and combating money laundering and terrorism financing.
Along with Vichea, who is Prime Minister Hun Sen's son-in-law, Sar Thet will now be in charge of the “order police”, a national-level unit that focuses on anti-demonstration activities. He is Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s nephew.
The reshuffling of duties was released in a National Police document dated February 28 and signed by National Police Chief Neth Savoeun.
In December, the government diverted around $4.5 million from the surplus budget to the Ministry of Interior to purchase nine types of “riot equipment”. Senior police officials have not divulged details of the acquisition.
Leaked videos from police training exercises have shown armed police practicing tactics to disperse urban protesters, even using armoured vehicles.
Observers have suggested anti-demonstration preparedness shows the authorities’ anxiety over the upcoming national elections, with the government looking to prevent a repeat of the post-2013 election protests. Those protests were led by the broadly popular opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was forcibly dissolved at the government's behest in November, prompting widespread condemnation.
Vichea, who is married to Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana, was promoted to deputy National Police chief on January 16, after already heading the Interior Ministry’s Central Security Department.
At the time, Interior Minister Khieu Sopheak saw no issue with the premier’s relative being promoted, pointing to United States President Donald Trump, whose daughter and son-in-law are part of the administration.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Choun Sovann, who is also a deputy National Police chief, retained his portfolios, while Deputy National Police Chief Chhay Sinarith was relieved of some his responsibilities.