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

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Courts’ decisions now published as reference source

    The Ministry of Justice has published 44 verdicts from civil litigation cases which can be used as models for court precedents and for study by the public and those who work in pertinent fields. Publication of the verdicts on December 31 came as the result of joint

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • China firm to develop Mondulkiri airport

    Tourism to the Kingdom’s northeast corridor could experience a remarkable metamorphosis after the government decided in principle of a Chinese company to study and develop a proposal to build a regional-level airport in Mondulkiri province, according to industry insiders. The Council of Ministers said