Central Surveillance Control Room to Coordinate Crimewatch

Surveillance cameras set up throughout the capital will be synchronized and monitored nonstop from a central control room as part of a coordinated crimewatch effort between City Hall and the National Police, officials said on Tuesday.

The room will be established at City Hall and manned by technical staff from City Hall, municipal police and military police stationed 24 hours a day to keep watch over the city, deputy Phnom Penh governor Mean Chanyada said on Tuesday after a meeting with relevant officials.

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Surveillance cameras above a Phnom Penh street light. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The goal of installing the surveillance cameras in public places is to serve security efforts as well as traffic,” City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said.

“Bad people will know that if they commit offenses in public, authorities will have the ability to identify and arrest them with the surveillance camera system,” he added. “We will be able to use [footage] as evidence or a tool to track down crime.”

City Hall currently oversees 600 installed cameras, while the National Police monitor 400 and expect another 200 to be donated by China in the future, he said.

In 2015, China donated the city’s initial 200 surveillance cameras at an estimated cost of $3 million, officials said at the time. Police have previously said the cameras have helped in pursuing several cases they would otherwise have been unable to investigate, such as traffic offenses and bag snatching.

Mr. Measpheakdey said the timeline for setting up the central control room remained unclear.

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith could not be reached for comment.

However, Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia military expert at the Australian Defence Force Academy, warned that the new system could lead to unwanted surveillance of ordinary citizens.

“On one hand, they can deal with petty crimes,” he said. “But at the same time I cannot believe that authorities that have access to that information are going to be restrained at all of protecting average citizens’ rights.”

In instances such as public demonstrations, “political interference can’t be ruled out,” he added. “The law and police are not free of interference from CPP officials. I’d say you cannot rule out abuse.”

(Additional reporting by Janelle Retka)

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