Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara has fired two commune officials and a police officer because the alleged leader of a kidnapping ring was renting a house in their neighborhood, just down the street from the commune headquarters.
“It is time for the commune chiefs to wake up,” Chea Sophara said Sunday. “I am going to fire more if I find they were acting carelessly.”
Earlier this year, Chea Sophara issued a directive reminding city officials that they must immediately report crimes or suspicious activities to their superiors.
“I had advised them already,” he said. “Why can’t they do it?”
Chea Sophara fired Hang Sareth, chief of Teuk La’ak 1 commune, and Sao Samy, the first deputy commune chief, on Thursday after receiving a request from Tuol Kok District Governor Klang Huot. Duong Chandara, a policeman in Teuk La’ak 1, was also fired.
This is the second time Chea Sophara has held commune chiefs responsible for city crime. In February he fired two chiefs because they were too slow to report kidnappings in their communes.
City officials say a man known as Rasmach, who they allege is responsible for at least one recent kidnapping, had been renting a house in Teuk La’ak 1.
Klang Huot said commune officials are required to file a report when any house or apartment is rented for more than $100 per month. The house Rasmach was staying in rents for $300 per month.
“I ordered them, but they didn’t follow my orders, so it is their fault,” Klang Huot said. “It’s a lesson to other commune officials to do a better job.”
Hang Sareth said he had not yet been officially notified of his firing.
“I acknowledge my weakness. It was my fault,” he said. “But the kidnapping did not happen here. It happened in another commune.”
And, he added, whenever there is a problem in the commune, blame travels from the top down and lands on the commune chiefs.
One commune chief who asked not to be identified, agreed and said commune chiefs are always being blamed for things that are not their fault.
He said he tells people who rent houses that they need to report to district officials, but they don’t comply.
Officials learned Rasmach was staying in the area after he and several other men allegedly kidnapped businessman Taing Pheng Por on June 27 in Teuk Thla commune. Taing Pheng Por was released after paying a $250,000 ransom. Several suspects were arrested and told police the ringleader, Rasmach, sometimes stayed in a house in Teuk La’ak 1.
Chea Sophara said Rasmach, who is still at large, moves between five houses he rents in the city.