Police Seeking New Year Gift Leave Hun Sen’s Home Empty-Handed

About 100 police and military police officers gathered outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh house by Independence Monument on Sunday morning hoping for a little Khmer New Year cash bonus, but ended up leaving empty-handed. 

Hel Narin, a member of the city’s protection police unit, which guards government offices and embassies, said officers usually congregate in front of Mr. Hun Sen’s house every Khmer New Year for a small annual bonus.

“Nobody invites us here. We come here by ourselves,” Mr. Narin said. “Last year, we got 100,000 riel [about $25].” But this year, there was no such luck.

Chim Ry, another member of the protection police unit, recalled last year’s gift fondly.

“An assistant came out and called us in, and then we lined up and received the money. Inside is very beautiful,” he said of the prime minister’s house. “This is to encourage us for our work.”

Duong Siha, a police officer who earns about $75 a month, said even a small bonus would help.

“It is quite difficult for me because it [my salary] is very small and I have a 3-year-old son,” he said.

Waiting along with the officers were some reporters from local Khmer-language newspapers. Lorp Sun, a reporter with the Special Khmer News, a pro-government weekly paper, confirmed that he, too, had received $25 last year after waiting outside.

Men Rithy, a reporter with Prampi Makara, a bi-monthly pro-government newspaper, said he was just passing by when he saw the crowd of people waiting for money and joined them.

“This is just our tradition to give away money and help each other; the rich gives to the poor,” said Mr. Rithy, who earns $100 a month. “It is really difficult to live in this economy.”

Lim Leang Se, a deputy Cabinet chief to Mr. Hun Sen, said he did not know about the gathering and declined to comment.

The turnout in front of the prime minister’s house was a small fraction of the roughly 1,000 soldiers, police and military police officers who gathered outside the Phnom Penh mansion of businesswoman Choeung Sopheap for cash gifts during the Chinese New Year in February.

Ms. Sopheap is the owner of controversial land development firm Pheapimex and the husband of CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin. Pheapimex owns a number of economic land concessions, most notably a 316,000-hectare site in Pursat province where villagers have staged several protests accusing the firm of illegally clearing their land. Armed military police officers have been deployed to guard the concession.

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