The Preah Vihear provincial administration is recruiting more volunteers to add to its 3,000-strong village security guards in a bid to strengthen security in local communities throughout the province.
Provincial governor Un Chanda told The Post on Wednesday that the administration currently needs a further 1,000 volunteers to be based in all villages across the province. He said each village needs at least 12 security guards to meet the Ministry of Interior’s guideline.
“We have instructed all district governors and police chiefs to recruit more volunteers to become security guards in each village. They shall provide uniforms for the guards and train them to collaborate with police and judicial task forces,” he said.
Chanda said village guards in Preah Vihear province are tasked with assisting police in maintaining social order and security in their respective villages.
Their tasks include breaking up gang fight or street brawls which tend to happen during festivals or weddings. He said in the past, there were not enough guards to provide security when there were more than two events going on at the same time.
“The volunteer village guards don’t have any authority to arrest or detain anybody. They only cooperate with police and other security forces to secure public order by providing information to the authorities so that state security forces can intervene timely when anything happens in local communities,” he said.
The Ministry of Interior launched the village security scheme in 2010. Local authorities are encouraged to recruit such volunteers to complement state security forces across the country to ensure safety for local communities and prevent petty crimes such as theft, snatching and robbery.
The volunteer guards also assist in clampdowns on the use, manufacturing and distribution of illegal drugs and provide assistance in stopping illicit activities such as prostitution, human trafficking, gambling, unauthorised use of weapons, and intervening in domestic violence.
While the recruitment of village security guards is seen by the general public and civil society organisations as a good initiative, it has also drawn criticism.
In the past, village security guards were reportedly deployed to crack down on protesters in land disputes and other protests.
Lor Chann, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said while he strongly supported the recruitment of such village guards in the province, he urged the authorities to select only people known to have actively engaged in social work.
“It would be good if we could recruit them through a process that enables us to select the right people who have a strong will or adequate education,” he said.
If, on the contrary, the village security guards turn out to be aggressive and less educated, he said, the recruitment would be counterproductive and can subsequently cause insecurity in their respective villages.