Police angry over gear claims

Military police gear lies on a footpath in Phnom Penh in 2013
Military police gear lies on a footpath in Phnom Penh in 2013. Complaints from provincial military police officers in two provinces describe having to personally pay for uniforms. Heng Chivoan

Police angry over gear claims

Officials with the military police sought to make clear yesterday that they don’t condone officers having to pay for their uniforms out of their own pockets after complaints emerged of the practice in Kampong Chhnang and Banteay Meanchey provinces.

Yesterday, military police spokesman Kheng Tito released a statement ordering all commanders to abide by the institution’s policy that officers should have gear provided free of charge.

The response came after Pheng Vannak, a deputy chief of training with the Phnom Penh municipal police, who often reports nefarious activity to his thousands of followers on Facebook, aired the claims yesterday on the social media network.

Vannak posted hand-written letters he said he had received from provincial military police officers in Banteay Meanchey and Kampong Chhnang complaining that they had been forced to pay for uniforms to the tune of $42 for shoes, $15 for hats and $5 for belts.

Within a matter of hours, the military police released a statement in response saying that the national military police commander had issued stern orders to provincial commanders not to dock wages from officers.

“The [enforcement] of the above policy is the responsibility of the national military police commander and the provincial/municipal commanders [which are not allowed] to dock or forcibly deduct wages in any form from any officer,” it said. “If the information [reported] is true, the commander will be held accountable before the law and regulations of [the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces].”

Phlan Dara, the Banteay Meanchey military police commander, strongly denied the allegations.

“I never ordered anyone to do this. I do not know about this problem,” he said.

Tito could not be reached for further comment, while Kampong Chhnang Commander Choun Choeun could also not be reached.

Suom Chankea, Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, urged the Defence Ministry to investigate the matter.

“Docking their wages affects the daily life and spirit of [officers] whose duty it is to serve the nation,” he said.

Police and military gear is easily available at Phnom Penh’s Teuk Thla market, where soldiers and officers are often seen buying items they should be provided free of charge because the goods have been sold onto the black market by officials in charge of procurement.

Vannak yesterday also announced on Facebook that he was resigning from the police after claiming he was threatened by Phnom Penh police chief Chhuon Sovann for posting information about ghost police officers.

Sovann could not be reached to comment on the claim.

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