Kompong Cham provincial police chief Pen Rath on Tuesday issued a statement instructing all police officers in the province who use illegal drugs to inform their supervisors and receive treatment—or face prosecution.
Brigadier General Rath, a former Phnom Penh deputy police chief in charge of drug crimes, said in the statement that any officers who voluntarily came forward to obtain treatment would be allowed to continue to work as police.
“The police officers who are involved with drug use must show up directly or admit it indirectly…and take action to get treatment,” the statement says. “If the police officers who are involved with [drug use] do not confess…those police officers will face the law and will not be forgiven.”
Brig. Gen. Rath said Wednesday that beginning on January 1, the provincial police’s anti-drug department will begin collecting blood and urine samples from all officers in Kompong Cham to test for illicit drugs in their system.
The police chief said he devised the plan to encourage his subordinates to get clean so they do not get arrested or fired in the future.
“We don’t want to lose our officials over a minor mistake,” he said.
He added that he issued the statement after receiving numerous complaints from locals throughout the province about rampant drug use among police, though he declined to offer a specific number of reported cases.
“We don’t want to say anything about the people who are reporting to the police,” he said. “We are scared that they will have trouble with those police officers [if we do].”
Heng Vuthy, chief of police in Kompong Cham’s Prey Chhor district, said that if any of the officers under his command were using drugs, he was not aware of it.
“I do not know if my district has police officers using drugs,” he said. “I think most of [the drug users] are provincial police officials.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Brig. Gen. Rath did not have the authority to offer protection to officers breaking the law, regardless of the circumstances.
“It is not the place of the commissioner to issue a statement like this,” Gen. Sopheak said.
“If he knows police officers under his supervision are abusing drugs, he should punish them according to the law.”
(Additional reporting by Chris Mueller)