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Village guards initiative grassroots win: ministry

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Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra hands over 56 sets of walkie-talkies to village security guards in Bokor town on Tuesday. NETH PHEAKTRA VIA FACEBOOK

Village guards initiative grassroots win: ministry

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra highlighted the advantages of village security guards, saying they were a core body at the grassroots level in implementing village and commune safety policies.

Pheaktra – also deputy chairman of the government working group for Bokor town – made his remarks while visiting the town’s Koh Touch commune, where he distributed 56 walkie-talkies to guards.

Pheaktra said radio communication was an important way for them to work effectively alongside the regular police forces. Good communication also meant rapid responses were more likely, helping the guards to maintain public order and thus making villages and communes safer for the public.

Pheaktra thanked them for their dedicating their time and their physical and mental strength to provide security and protect the people in their villages.

“Village security guards play an important part in maintaining safety and security for the public. This group is now also an crucial part of the commune police administration, thanks to their work in preventing and suppressing local crimes,” he said.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun said on April 20 that it was true that village guards had a role to play in providing security and protecting public order, but from his past observations, there seems to be no clear distinction between them and the police or the military in protecting the public or implementing the policy of safe villages and communes.

Chanroeun said some guards had used their power to interrogate or spy on people’s homes, claiming that they were involved in social or political activities that caused fear or intimidation and violated the rights and freedoms of the public.

“I suggest that the relevant ministries, especially the Ministry of Interior, review the duties and responsibilities – as well as the ethics – of village security guards to prevent any negative phenomena arising from their roles, leaving them focused on the common goal of creating safe conditions for the people in the village,” he said.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said on April 20 that the police force and the village security guard force were not the same and that the division of responsibilities was different, even though the uniforms were the same color.

He added that the guards have an important role to play in maintaining order, but were not members of the judiciary.

He did not deny some of their shortcomings, saying: “Things always do, it is inevitable – even Budhha was not perfect.”

If the village guards made any errors, the ministry would conduct investigations and provide additional training, he said.

“I acknowledge that some people are corrupt, but if we insult them, we are not behaving in a moral fashion either. There may in fact be some corrupt guards working, but overall, they have contributed a great deal to maintaining public order,” he added.

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