Residents in the capital’s Don Penh district have complained that members of civil security patrols there are levying an irregular 1,000-riel-per-household tax on them.
The patrol members, organized last year as a substitute to the armed militias that formerly provided security in the city’s neighborhoods, say they have been authorized by district and commune bosses to collect the fees.
This money, they said, is used to pay for food and cigarettes for patrol members who must man lookout posts during the night.
But residents contend the money is instead being pocketed as de facto pay for the unsalaried patrolmen.
“The government itself has to sponsor [the patrols]. It is not the people’s duty to pay for them,” said one resident who did not want to be named. “Why does the government let its people come and take money from us?”
Residents said they had never before been asked to contribute money to their neighborhood’s defense and stressed that, while they were not completely unwilling to pay, they readily agreed to the fee because “we cannot say what they might do to us in the future,” one resident said.
Two unidentified patrol members who were going house to house in Wat Phnom commune near Psar Chah, or old market, collecting money said they only began collecting this week.
“We do not force them to give us but 1,000 riel for each family…
it is charity. We do not force them. Some families give only 500 riel and we have accepted that,” said one patrol member who did not want to be named.
Municipal officials denied that they ordered patrol members to collect fees.
According to Municipal Cabinet Chief Mann Chhoeun, city officials have only asked that residents cooperate with the patrols and have not required a contribution.
But deputy Don Penh district chief Eng Nguon said this kind of activity is inevitable, as unpaid citresidents are asked to guard their neighborhoods night after night.
“We have called on these people to help guard…they need money,” Eng Nguon said.
But he added that he will call patrolmen in his district and tell them to stop collecting the fees, though they will be allowed to keep money given as gifts.
Civil security patrols were authorized by the Ministry of Interior in mid-1999 in an attempt to keep Cambodians safe while complying with the country’s disarmament efforts. It’s unclear how thoroughly the reform initiative was implemented.
The patrols, which are supposed to be unarmed and only serve as night watches to assist local police, have drawn some criticism for their potential links to incidents of mob violence and intimidation.