Senior officials at the Ministry of Defence and National Police said on Tuesday that riot training provided to the country’s police forces were aimed at preventing unexpected demonstrations and strikes before and after the July 29 national elections.
The troop mobilisation, they said, would not worry the people.
The training exercises, which took place in the capital and 15 provinces, coincided with the election rallies that the 20 political parties competing in the polls were conducting.
On Monday, Kampot provincial police chief Mao Chanmakthurith led 140 local police chiefs, deputy police chiefs and intervention officers on such an exercise.
Chanmakthurith told The Post that his police officers needed to be trained regularly.
“Everything is normal. The situation is quiet and there is nothing happening. [The training] hasn’t worried the people. We can see that we are stable and happy,” he said.
“If the forces do not train, what can they do?”
Meanwhile, Military Police are in the midst of planning a movement of troops on Thursday from the capital and Kandal province to Kampong Chhnang province to join the groundbreaking ceremony for a livefire training facility, to be held on July 21.
An announcement said that 800 armed forces personnel will be moved from Kambol Military Police School and Military Police Headquarters. They will return after the ceremony.
National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said he does not believe the mobilisation of forces will cause concern as the personnel will be unarmed while in transit.
“The mobilisation of troops is just to join the groundbreaking ceremony for the live-bullet training field, [but] they won’t be going to shoot bullets. They are unarmed.
“They will be going there with only their uniforms because this is the election campaign period. We have already informed the NEC and authorities at all levels.
“The Military Police has no intention to threaten people. Instead, it serves to protect and maintain the people’s peace and safety, especially during the election process. The military police will not condone threats and violence,” he said.
‘Excuses and accusations’
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said it wasn’t the police training that was scaring people but those making the accusations.
“It is typical for the nation’s police forces to train . . . It is also typical for that opposition party to make excuses and accusations,” he said, presumably referring to the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
“None of the people are scared, but the people making the accusations are of concern.”
Thursday will mark the fourth time in less than two years that forces in the capital or nearby Kandal province have been mobilised.
Earlier this month, 800 military police personnel moved from Phnom Penh and Kandal province to Svay Rieng province to celebrate the force’s 25th anniversary.
On June 23, Kandal province’s Bodyguard Unit moved men to Battambang province to join the anniversary of the establishment of Region 5.
In August last year, the government sent troops and weapons from a base in Kandal province’s Takhmao town to Stung Treng province after Lao troops moved into Cambodia at the O’Alay area of Stung Treng province.
And in September 2016, 35 trucks of armed forces personnel began patrols along National Road 2, in the capital’s Chak Angre Krom commune, near the former headquarters of the CNRP after the now-dissolved party announced a mass demonstration.
Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia executive director Sam Kuntheamy said the recent training exercises and troop mobilisation have instilled fear.
“The mobilisation, strategic anti-demonstration exercises and strike training have degraded the election environment and created fear and concern,” Kuntheamy said.
“The voters and political parties will feel scared and worry for their safety when they see such things.”