The National Police Commis-sariat is moving out of the Interior Ministry compound and will settle into a new headquarters nearby early next year, officials said this week.
Police officials said there is currently no plan to sever the police command from the Interior Ministry, but other officials declined to rule such a possibility out for the future.
The police chiefs’ headquarters will be located at what was previously the site of the Interior Ministry’s protection unit, which is adjacent the Ministry of Culture at the southern end of Norodom Boulevard.
“The Ministry of Interior is bigger and bigger,” Deputy National Police Commissioner Sok Phal said Monday. “We need a new place,” he said.
A protection unit police officer said Monday that work on a four-story brick building, which is to house the commissariat, had begun four to six months ago at the site.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday that splitting the Interior Ministry was a decision for after the 2008 elections.
“We have not made any decision yet. Let the new prime minister decide,” he said.
A new ministry of national security, headed by National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy, has long been rumored.
In October 2004, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, then National Assembly president, called for the police to be under the direct control of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Six months later Hun Sen denied rumors that the police were to be extracted from the ministry in order to form a national security ministry.
On Tuesday, Khieu Sopheak said that such plans were not being discussed just yet.
“What I can tell you now, I tell you. At the moment, no.”
Khieu Sopheak said uncoupling the police from the ministry would weaken provincial governors, who are appointed by the ministry.
“The governors will have no teeth,” he said.
Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said Tuesday that he feared that if provincial governors lost direct authority over the police, the police may grow into a political entity in their own right.
“If they separate the police like this, it’s not good for the country,” he said.
“I worry we’ll become a police state.”
Hok Lundy could not be reached for comment Monday and Tuesday.