Police reported clear roads across the country Sunday only days after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the elimination of illegal checkpoints.
“[National] Road 5 from Poipet to Banteay Meanchey provincial town is clean,” said Sorm Sophin, deputy police chief of Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrou district. “No checkpoints are set up and even the traffic police do not dare to stand alongside the road because of [Hun Sen’s] order.”
Authorities have always had the right to set up temporary mobile checkpoints to stop smugglers, but for years those checkpoints have become nearly permanent fixtures in specific places.
Commanding police officials said they had recalled their officers who were manning mobile checkpoints for fear they would be accused of running them illegally.
“We ordered our police to return to the police post on Saturday,” said Banteay Meanchey deputy police chief Chhoeurng Sokhom. “We have stopped our policemen from standing with mobile customs officials at checkpoints to avoid accusations.”
Banteay Meanchey’s military police commander, Roth Sreang, laid most of the blame on customs officials, saying they were responsible for establishing permanent checkpoints in his province. “They did not move and patrol but they fixed their checkpoints in one place for many months,” he said. “If they do this, they are not called mobile customs.”
On Sunday, police in Kompong Cham province reported they had confiscated 107 containers of gasoline smuggled from Vietnam on Friday night. Provincial police Commissioner Kang Sokhorn said he ordered the crackdown in response to Hun Sen’s speech Tuesday despite the difficulty in catching smugglers. “We must stay up late at night and not sleep to catch them,” he said.
Em Sitha, deputy director of the national Customs and Excise Department’s investigation and smuggling office, said mobile checkpoints are effective since the smugglers seem to have a net of informers.
Taxi driver Em Sokhon said he has already seen changes. Checkpoint officers used to be friendly and only one officer would come out to collect money without conducting a search. Now there are three to four officers who check cars thoroughly, he said.