A new police commander will take the reigns of Phnom Penh’s municipal police forces, as part of a major shakeup aimed at bringing Cambodia’s rising crime rate under control.
The move comes in the wake of a months-long campaign in the capital that local authorities say has succeeded in improving the city’s security somewhat. But moves this year have failed to fully placate investors afraid of kidnapping and change Cambodia’s image as the wild spot of Southeast Asia, diplomats and investors say.
Outgoing municipal police chief Neth Savoeun defended his record Thursday and said that he is happy with the change.
He said he has been offered a new position as director of the Ministry of Interior’s Central Justice Department that will allow him to monitor the situation across the country and better fight crime in Phnom Penh.
“I am glad because they have promoted me and, probably, they realize my good work,” he said. “Security in Phnom Penh is getting better and crime is less than compared to recent months.”
Neth Savoeun’s transfer is one of more than 30. In many cases, police chiefs will retain their ranks, but will move to other provinces.
An Interior Ministry report distributed to donors last week showed an almost 30 percent increase in crime across the country between the second and third quarter of the years. The paper, written by Co-Interior Minister Sar Kheng, spelled out numerous steps needed to get the situation under control—including a examination of the existing structure of the Ministry of Interior and efforts to strengthen the leadership and management of police forces.
“Safeguarding security and maintaining social order are the very defining factor for national and social development on all fronts,” the paper said.
Ministry of Interior officials reached Thursday declined to comment on the changes in the police force. But Om Yentieng, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, called it the “policy of the government that we want to be more effective in police work.
“The reshuffle will participate in making the police work well managed gradually, little by little.”
However, he and several other police officials maintained that staff reassignment were a routine part of effective administration, and were not related to current reform efforts.
“Even if there was no crime and no kidnapping we would still handle a reshuffling because this is the functioning process of the ministry of interior and it is not involved with crime and kidnapping,” Om Yentieng said.
When asked about Neth Savoeun’s performance, he replied, “I don’t know.” Some police officers praised the promotion and said it will increase security in Phnom Penh.
“I think it will be better for the city, because Neth Savoeun will be able to better strengthen cooperation and work more effectively to control security in the city,” said Bith Kim Hong, deputy police commissioner in charge of security.
In addition to Phnom Penh, more than 30 provincial police leaders will be transferred, among them: Sok Sareth, currently first deputy chief of Interpol, will head the police force in Banteay Meanchey; Chea San, Banteay Meanchey’s commander will move to Preah Vihear; Ek Kreth, Phnom Penh’s judicial police chief, will move to Kandal; and Eak Khem, Kandal’s current judicial police subcommander, will become police commissioner of Prey Veng province.
(Additional reporting by Kimsan Chantara)