Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Police deploy 566 officers to ‘protect’ Kem Sokha

Police deploy 566 officers to ‘protect’ Kem Sokha

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Police direct supporters at Kem Sokha’s house in Phnom Penh after his release from prison on bail.

Police deploy 566 officers to ‘protect’ Kem Sokha

More than 560 policemen have been deployed to protect detained opposition leader Kem Sokha – a move defended as necessary to deter “social chaos” but denounced by critics as painting Cambodia as unsafe.

Phnom Penh’s police chief Lieutenant General Sar Thet wrote in an internal document obtained by The Post on Tuesday that 566 municipal policemen would be sent to ensure the safety and supervision of Kem Sokha and “to prevent opposition leaders, civil society groups and organisations from trying to gather public forces at the residence of Kem Sokha, which would harm the public order in Phnom Penh”.

The document continued that the force must “prevent all tricks and action plans concerning terrorism, crime and causing social chaos”, and “control all activities of civil society organisation, unions, foreigners, former CNRP leaders and the 118 individuals involved in the case who were banned from politics”.

Kem Sokha, the former leader of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), is bailed under the supervision of Phnom Penh Municipal Court and confined to a one-block radius around his home in the capital’s Tuol Kork district.

The government critic was arrested for treason last September and charged with conspiring with foreign powers based on Article 443 of the Criminal Code. Sokha spent a year in Tbong Khmum province’s Trapaing Phlong prison before he was released on bail on September 10.

The same day, Prime Minister Hun Sen was reported as having said that Sokha’s bail was granted due to his health and that the former CNRP president had requested security while in the detention centre and outside of it.

The document said Kem Sokha had requested protection from the National Police. The court and top government officials insist that he is not under house arrest.

Even so, the police chief’s circular specifically mentioned keeping a close watch on Kem Sokha’s home.

It said police forces in the area must “monitor and stop all actions before they cause riots, protests or other demonstrations” and “arrange CCTVs around the targets to monitor all activities of the convicted”.

National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun defended the sizeable deployment and stressed that it was not just about Sokha’s safety.

“It is safeguarding the targets in order to protect everyone. This is always done with a clear objective – to ensure safety. This is the forces’ main focus and deploying these forces is based on the actual situation called for,” Kim Khoeun said.

‘Difficult to explain’

Yet Kim Khoeun was quick to point out the deployment of the Phnom Penh Police, rather than the National Police.

“This is the plan of the Phnom Penh Municipal police. I also find it difficult to explain, but it is a security matter for the police forces, and for any comments, it’s up to them, it’s their view. And we have nothing to explain,” he said.

Soeng Sen Karuna, a senior official of rights group Adhoc, said such a deployment would affect the image and reputation of Cambodia and show that the Kingdom is rolling back the democratic principles that affect the people’s freedom.

“We do not see any group that is likely to come out to protest . . . the kind that the government is concerned about by using such a huge force,” he said.

Karuna said deploying such a large force on the streets of Phnom Penh would make “the public worry and think that Cambodia still does not have full peace and security”.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro