Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema has issued a warning to police about leaking information to the media related to an ongoing drug crackdown.
A letter signed by Kep Chuktema on May 11 and obtained by The Post yesterday states that the capital’s eight district police chiefs would be punished through administrative procedures and held responsible before the law for unauthorised leaks.
“I would like to inform you that there was previous success in cracking down on drug trafficking and other crimes, but the operations leading to the arrest of the drug trafficking ringleader were difficult because the perpetrators received information in advance that was leaked by authorities to the media,” Kep Chuktema wrote.
Between January 1 and May 10, more than 600 people were arrested on drug-related charges in Phnom Penh alone.
Nationwide, nearly 400 suspects were netted over just four weeks after national police chief Neth Savoeun called for a national crackdown last month.
Kirt Chantharith, Phnom Penh police spokesman, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Um Sarin, president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said yesterday that Kep Chuktema’s letter would invite authorities to hide information and blame the media when they failed to meet their responsibilities.
“It would lead to a dark society and people will no longer receive information,” he said. Um Sarin said last week’s arrest of Khieu Sara – the deputy chief of the Banteay Meanchey provincial police anti-drug bureau who is reportedly connected to cases against high-ranking officials that include charges of taking bribes from drug-traffickers – illustrated how leaked information could serve the public interest.
“In a democratic country, people should access information; then, people would be able to participate with the police in doing their work,” he said.