Authorities in Siem Reap province arrested at least three police officers in the Ministry of Interior’s anti-economic crime department Wednesday on suspicion of extorting money from fishermen in the province.
The arrests were made after one of the fishermen filed a complaint with provincial military police accusing the economic crime police of demanding money from him and other fishermen as they illegally fished in the Tonle Sap river, said Morm Samon, provincial military police chief.
“We arrested [the officials] after receiving a complaint from a group of people who accused them of extorting money from them while they were fishing a day before the arrest,” said Mr. Samon, who declined to disclose the amount of money the officers were demanding.
Provincial court prosecutor Koeut Vannareth said he led the operation and that four police officers were arrested. However, Long Sreng, deputy director of the anti-economic crime department, said only three of those arrested were from his department, and the fourth suspect was the driver of the boat they were patrolling in.
Mr. Sreng called the arrests “illegal,” as Mr. Vannareth failed to inform Appeal Court general director Ouk Savuth of the planned arrests beforehand.
He named two of the arrested police officers as Mata Ya and Chheang Srepov but said he could not remember the name of the third official or the boat driver.
“Provincial authorities sent me a message by telephone on Wednesday confirming the arrests of my department’s officials,” Mr. Sreng said.
“We believe the arrests of our officials are illegal because the provincial prosecutor led his authorities to take action without informing the general prosecutor [Mr. Savuth],” he said.
But despite criticizing the arrests, Mr. Sreng said his underlings were most likely guilty of the crime.
“We do not know yet if our officials really committed extortion, but I am 80 percent sure it is true, because some officials have committed this crime in the past,” he said.
Fishing in the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers is banned from June 1 to October 30 to allow fish stocks to be replenished during the breeding season.