Police on Wednesday confiscated more than 30 walkie-talkies from tuk-tuk and moto-taxi drivers in Phnom Penh over what one official described as “anarchic” use of portable radios, despite admitting that it was not illegal to own them.
Photographs of two tuk-tuk drivers—one with a walkie-talkie, the other with a pair of handcuffs—were widely shared on Facebook over the weekend.
On Wednesday, police swept through the capital, seizing two-way radios and lecturing more than 200 tuk-tuk and moto-taxi drivers, according to Min Sovanna, director of the radio communication department at the National Police.
“We confiscated more than 30 long-distance walkie-talkies because they affect national security,” Major General Sovanna said, adding that their owners had been using the radios to monitor police activity, which amounted to “illegal” interference in the work of officials.
“They have the right to use them if they come to register” with the radio communication department, he added.
Deputy Phnom Penh police chief Song Ly said police carried out the operation on the orders of municipal police chief Chuon Sovann, in response to public anger over the Facebook photos.
Chbar Ampov district police chief Em Saravuth said his officers briefly detained eight tuk-tuk and moto-taxi drivers for questioning Wednesday morning.
“We took action because previously there are many problems involving these tuk-tuk drivers,” he said. “Especially when there is a traffic accident, these people listen to police radio communications and come to surround the [scene of an] accident.”
Kao Pov, 32, a tuk-tuk driver and member of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, insisted that walkie-talkies were not used for nefarious purposes.
“We do not use this equipment for anything illegal,” he said. “We use it to tell our members to come and help if we get in an accident.”