Dispute Grounds Elite Police

A top municipal official has removed the Flying Tigers, a two-year-old anti-crime force, from Phnom Penh’s streets amid a dispute over the group’s future.

Chea Sophara, Phnom Penh’s first deputy governor, said he has taken away the motorcycle keys from 40 policemen on the Flying Tigers team because of alleged involvement in crime.

Chea So­phara blamed the group for a re­cent crime wave ag­ainst foreigners. “Even I myself am very afraid of them,” Chea So­phara said. “They have embarrassed me.”

Chea Sophara has requested the Flying Tigers be based at the Interior Ministry, where they can be called upon by the city in case of an emergency. Currently, the Flying Tigers are distributed in each of the city’s seven districts.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, denied the charges and said the Flying Tigers have contrib­uted to crime-fighting in the capital.

The first deputy governor’s official proposal to return the Flying Tigers to the Interior Ministry was sent to that office last week. In the meantime, the policemen and their motorcycles are sitting idle, Khieu Sopheak said.

The Flying Tigers were created in 1996 by the interior co-min­isters in response to a crime wave against foreigners and to in­ter­vene in street disputes be­tween Funcinpec and CPP factions.

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