More than 4,000 RCAF soldiers will be reassigned for training as military police officers ahead of the forthcoming 2008 national election, government officials said this week.
The soldiers will undertake military police duty until the election period and following the vote will return to their units, RCAF’s deputy commander-in-chief Meas Sophea said Wednesday.
“The military police face a shortage of forces during the national election so they need us to assist them,” Meas Sophea said by telephone.
“We will help by providing our soldiers for a short period of time, and then they will go back to their units when the election is finished,” he said.
Meas Sophea said the temporary transfer was necessary as only military police officers are allowed to enter and provide security at polling stations during the election.
On Wednesday, 200 soldiers took part in a ceremony in Banteay Meanchey province ahead of their reassignment as military police officers, their provincial commander Plon Dara said.
“It’s good for our soldiers,” Plon Dara said. “They have been trained in the soldiers’ domain and now will get to try another profession.”
SRP Deputy President Kong Koam said increasing the number of security personnel during the election was unnecessary, as the country is now stable.
“Our country is peaceful. We do not need the armed forces to stand at voting stations. They should stay in their bases and let the national election committee and election observers control the work [at stations],” he said.
“It’s strange and a surprise to increase the armed forces. It is a threat and intimidation to voters,” he added.
Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, said the issue was not whether there are members of the armed forces present at polling booths, but whether they did their duty and protected voters.
“We have never had any security problems at national election time,” Tep Nytha said. “We have enough armed force security provided by provincial authorities,” he added.