City Officials May Be Sacked If They Can’t Capture Crooks

Police and district officials will be warned to start catching criminals or lose their jobs, a municipal official said Thursday, in detailing more of a plan to battle crime.

First Deputy Governor Chea Sophara also said Phnom Penh residents will be issued ID cards to prove their citizenship.

“I am not joking,” Chea So­phara said. “I will fire the district police chief. I will fire the district chief. I will even fire myself if this does not work.”

Chea Sophara announced a plan to crackdown on crime and illegal weapons earlier this month. On Thursday, he gave more details at a two-hour working session at City Hall with NGOs and government officials.

Specifically, if po­lice cannot catch criminals or get evidence for crimes, the municipality will issue a warning, Chea Sophara said. After three warnings from the municipality, district officials risk being fired, he said.

He said the city already has started conducting a door-to-door census on the number of citizens and the number of weapons—both registered and unregistered—in a house.

Rights workers had been concerned that the census, which began Monday, might be done improperly. But two prominent Funcinpec officials visited by census takers this week said they were satisfied with the program.

“There was no intimidation,” said Funcinpec parliamentarian Ahmad Yaya. “I think it’s a good idea.”

Census information will be used for ID cards issued free to all Phnom Penh citizens, age 18 or older, who were born in Cam­bodia, Chea Sophara said. The registration will help control the number of illegal immigrants from China and Taiwan as well as help facilitate criminal investigations, Chea Sophara said.

Census-takers are only allowed to work from 6 am to 6 pm, Chea Sophara said. Municipal and local police units will also be asked about the types and numbers of guns they keep.

No guns will be collected during the census-taking, but written records will be kept.

No one knows how many wea­pons there are in Cambodia, but one analyst estimates there are at least 500,000 guns nationwide.

Chea Sophara extended an earlier Nov 1 deadline for gun registration by three months. After that, people found with unregistered weapons can face legal penalties. Citizens with unregistered weapons are encouraged to turn them into the municipality for money. Already, the municipal police chief said 24 guns had been turned in to the city.

Security experts and NGO representatives at the meeting raised concerns and suggestions for the city’s plan.  One is­sue was Chea Sophara’s plan to store collected weapons at the Defense Ministry. Guns should be destroyed publicly, said Colonel David Mead, the former defense attache for the Australian embassy.

Police, militia and military forces also need to receive better training before any weapons crackdown can work, Mead said.

“If your people feel secure they will not need guns. They will only feel secure if the police take action in a very professional manner in the way they…use their weapons,” Mead said.

Chea Sophara acknowledged the problems of controlling and training police and military forces in the city, but added the major problems are a lack of funds for training programs and the low sal­aries of soldiers and police.

Chea Sophara also said the city would become more strict about license plates and insist car and motorcycle buyers have a driver’s license and plates.

He took a swipe at the Ministry of Public Works for not cracking down on fake license plates made on the streets.

“If there is an accident in the street, the owner of the car can escape. In some cases, those cars can be used for kidnapping,” he said.


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