Police Angry Over Fees for Association

Already demoralized by their low salaries, national police officers have found fresh reason for disappointment in the creation of a professional association meant to help them in times of crisis: The man­datory dues of $1 a month equal the raise they received last year.

The Cambodian National Po­lice Friendship Association was formed March 15 by National Police Director-General Hok Lundy, who will serve as the association’s president.

The program would pay from    1 million riel ($256) to 10 million riel ($2,564) to association members or their families in the event of the police officer’s death, or the death of their spouse. It would also pay 4 million riel ($1,025) to an association member when he or she retires from the police force.

Police officers say they were told membership would be voluntary, but some have complained that their dues were taken out of their paycheck before they even knew the association existed.

“The sum is not much but it took back all of the salary raise that was given last year,” said a Daun Penh district police officer who asked not to be named. “It seems to contradict the government’s policy to raise the salary of civil servants.”

He said low-ranking police officers like him earn 80,000 riel (about $20.51) per month from the government payroll. This month his salary was 11,000 riel lower. When he asked he was told that 9,000 riel ($2.30) was withheld for the association’s entrance fee, and another 2,000 riel was donated to a police sports team.

According to the statute, the association aims to help the national police officers across the country when they face difficult times caused by a death in the family.

The government’s plan to raise salaries for civil servants was mentioned at the government’s annual human rights conference last year. The raise was meant to reduce the rampant street-level corruption that regularly accompanies police work, like investigating a motorcycle accident or enforcing traffic rules.

The sight of a police officer standing in a busy intersection with his palm extended, waiting for cash from a passing truck, is so common in some areas it hardly merits attention.

“It is for a social issue of the national police,” National Police Deputy Director-General Sau Phan said, adding that senior police officials at the Ministry of Interior also had talked about raising the living standards of poor police officers.

“It needs to have such an association, and other foreign countries have like this, too,” he said.

There are more than 50,000 police officers in the country, including commune police officers, Sau Phan said. The association collects more than $50,000 per month in dues, police officials said.

Several low-ranking police officials at the Ministry of Interior said they were upset when their April salary was cut without them being informed first.

“They said to join or not, it’s up to us,” a Russei Keo district police said. “And I do not join it, but my salary was cut, too.”

Hok Lundy was not available for comment.

“I think it is not a big deal for me,” said a tourism police officer, who said he did not want to join the association. “It would help only when a police officer dies, but after I die I do not need the money.”


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