Firefighters were urged by Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Thursday to act in the interest of victims and not demand bribes before putting out blazes.
Mr. Kheng said firefighters should respond quickly, act effectively and not discriminate against victims based on their race or political views at a ceremony marking the dispatch of more than 100 fire trucks recently purchased from China.
“I want to say that we stand up for the people’s interest and victims’ interests, so avoid demanding money before an operation or negotiating before you start to put out the fire,” he said.
“It will not do. So please keep four policies: first, act fast; second, be effective; third, act justly; and fourth, be transparent.”
Mr. Kheng told the assembled provincial police chiefs and police officials that there was significant room for improvement in the country’s inadequate fire services.
“Our expert officials must relay the information faster and on time about fires,” he said. “When we receive information about the fire, we must order officials immediately to help rescue the people, so our fire trucks must already be prepared.”
Cambodia does not have dedicated firefighters, but instead relies on police, who are often poorly trained.
The interior minister said on Thursday that police would be required to undergo training from now on, but provided no timeframe or specifics about the training.
Neth Vantha, director of the Interior Ministry’s fire police and rescue department, said he believed Mr. Kheng’s comments were largely precautionary as corruption had not been an issue among his staff for some 10 years now.
“I think that Samdech Kralahorm [Sar Kheng] is afraid that some of our officials have bad ideas to abuse the law, so he just spoke to prevent that problem,” he said.
“Before 10 years ago, there was a rumor that some police commit corruption but this 10 years it has not happened.”
Mr. Vantha also said his department was planning a large intensive training course soon at the Police Academy of Cambodia but conceded no funds had yet been allocated for this professional development.