In their fledgling campaign to stop the illegal use of police license plates, authorities in Phnom Penh on Thursday made their highest-profile stop so far, temporarily impounding a truck belonging to the police chief of Mondolkiri province.
About five police officers from the Interior Ministry and five military police officers were manning a checkpoint in Prampi Makara district Thursday morning as part of an operation—first announced in late September—to prevent the use of police license plates by civilians and the use of fake or expired plates by police.
Watching for passing vehicles with police plates Thursday morning, the officers pulled over a new black Izuzu pickup truck with a police license plate stuck on its hood.
“Sorry, we need to check the documents for your car,” Phan Sam En, deputy head of the commission carrying out the crackdown, told two civilians inside the truck.
“We are taking action because we want our police officers to respect the law,” he explained.
Upon checking the vehicle’s paperwork, Mr. Sam En said the car belonged to Mondolkiri provincial police chief Toch Yon and had violated a number of rules.
“We stopped the pickup truck because the driver is a civilian but his vehicle was bearing police number plates, so he was in the wrong because that is against the law,” he said. The plates were also out of date and the front plate illegally positioned, Mr. Sam En said.
“We will send the…pickup truck to be kept at the public order department in the national police headquarters,” he added.
Contacted by telephone Thursday, Mr. Yon denied that he personally owned the vehicle, explaining that it was the property of the provincial police department.
“I wish to state that the number plate is real, but the Ministry of Interior required us to get a new one and we have already requested a new number plate to replace it,” he said.
Mr. Yon said that the police officer who normally drove the vehicle was sick, which is why his brother—the passenger—was being driven by a civilian.
“I wish to request for information about this not to be published and I will educate him later,” he said.
Run Rathveasna, director of the Interior Ministry’s public order department, said police released Mr. Yon’s truck without fining him.
“We let the pickup truck go because it had the correct legal documents,” he said.
Mr. Rathveasna said that six police officers who were arrested in Phnom Penh this week for using fake plates were all released Thursday morning, but their vehicles were still being held.