Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Well financed crooks pose enormous challenge to underfunded cops

Well financed crooks pose enormous challenge to underfunded cops

Well financed crooks pose enormous challenge to underfunded cops

UNDERFINANCED and overworked, police are hard-pressed to combat a growing number

of international crime syndicates taking advantage of the country's lawlessness and

laxity, a top police official said.

"We have a lot of criminals wanted by Interpol here-for trafficking of weapons,

humans, drugs. But our budget is very limited, we have nothing," Police General

Skadavy M. Ly Roun said in an interview at his decrepit, peeling office in Phnom

Penh.

His latest case- a swoop on a Phnom Penh villa-is typical of what Cambodia's Interpol,

an agency funded by the Interior Ministry and separate from regular police, is up

against, he said.

On Christmas day, police raided the villa expecting to find a handful of Chinese,

who had been under surveillance for three days for suspected involvement in a Chinese

criminal syndicate.

Instead, they discovered more than 80 Chinese crowded into the villa. They also found

fake Chinese and Cambodian immigration stamps, 26 fake Chinese passports, a phone

book listing suspected criminal contacts in Europe, South America, the United States

and Africa, and a small stash of amphetamines.

The group included the suspected chiefs of alleged Chinese crime syndicates in Cambodia,

Hong Kong and China. It is also believed to have links with a Hong Kong-Cambodian

tourism and investment firm being investigated by authorities from China, Hong Kong

and the Netherlands for suspected human trafficking activities, Interpol officials

said.

The sudden complexity of the case soon became a problem.

"We didn't have enough cars to transport them," said General Skadavy. "And

no one in the government wanted to get involved with it, having to provide them food,"

he said.

He ended up bringing them to the old building that houses the Cambodian Interpol

and began making inquiries - which wasn't easy either.

Authorities in Hong Kong and China wanted details about the case but Cambodia's Interpol

has one fax machine which was donated and because of a lack of funds, sending outgoing

massages was impossible.

Skadavy had to borrow the Chinese Embassy's phone to call Beijing because the call

was expensive.

Skadavy, whose work also includes overseeing the Interior Ministry's anti-drug work,

is paid about $30 per month in salary, plus less then $2 a day for travel allowances.

The 63 other staff at the Cambodian Interpol make even less, and the dilapidated

complex offices have only folding chairs for furnishings, with no phones in sight.

Corruption is also a problem for Interpol, as well as an enticement to criminals.

With most police averaging a salary of about $20 per month, the chances of officials

accepting bribes run high, officials say.

That presents a dangerous situation given Cambodia's growing reputation as a haven

for international criminals, noted Skadavy.

"This is big money, big finance, and big organization we are facing now... we

need to join an international operation because our capability is very limited,"

He appealed to other nations to help Cambodia combat the problem.

"I hope 1997 will be a good year to cooperate with other countries..."

he said.

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