900 in Poipet Call for Police Chief’s Removal

Nearly 900 people from 15 villages in Poipet City in Banteay Meanchey province have signed a petition calling for the removal of a commune police chief, officials and villagers said yesterday.

Nimit commune chief Phal Setha said 867 people have signed the petition for the removal of the commune’s police chief Keo Chhun, whom they accuse of extorting money from locals. Mr Setha said he called a meeting after receiving the petition yesterday morning at which the village chiefs and commune counselors expressed their support for the petitioners.

“[We] strongly support the villagers’ demand to fire or remove that cop from our jurisdiction because we don’t want our people to be hurt,” Mr Setha said by telephone. “The police officer never listens to commune authorities and he always causes trouble with villagers by arresting people to extort money,” he added.

“Dozens of villagers were arrested recently just for playing cards at home and betting that anyone who loses the game has to drink water,” O’Chrou village chief Chan Mos said. “For their release, my villagers were each extorted $50.”

Since occupying his post 13 months ago, he added, Mr Chhun has also made a habit of confiscating villagers’ fishing nets and demanding money for their return, all while refusing to help villagers who report cases of robbery and theft.

Contacted by phone, Mr Chhun denied the allegations.

“I have done nothing wrong. I just arrest criminals,” he said, declining to answer further questions because he was in a meeting.

Mr Chhun’s boss, Poipet City police chief Oum Sophal, declined to comment on the claims against his officer yesterday but said he would pass the petition on to his superiors once he received it.

“We need a cop who works for the people, not one who comes here to extort money only,” said villager Eang Mann. “If the leaders are not going to remove or fire him from his current post, I cannot guarantee whether a mass protest to chase him out will occur.”

 

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