Phnom Penh Municipal Police sent a warning letter to the Municipal Fire Department on Wednesday regarding firefighters who allegedly demanded money from villagers to extinguish an Aug 9 fire in Daun Penh district, municipal Deputy Police Chief Yim Samnang said Thursday.
Yim Samnang said by telephone that he threatened in the letter to punish firefighters—who are under the authority of the Police Department—who demand money from villagers before working to put out fires.
Ath Chiev and Pao Puth, rescue chief and fire truck driver, were suspended from work last week and are under investigation for taking money from villagers whose houses were on fire, Yim Samnang said Thursday.
Both are still drawing their salaries.
Suon Sopheak, a major at the police fire brigade, said the two men took $20 and $28, respectively. He added that 11 other firefighters have confessed that they accepted money distributed by Ath Chiev and Pao Puth once they had returned to the firehouse. The firefighters claimed not to know the money’s origin.
The 11 will have to sign contracts promising not to take money from villagers or officials without knowing where the money comes from, Soun Sopheak said Thursday. They will also promise to inform the director when fire officials give them money, he added.
The investigation continues despite their confessions, Suon Sopheak said.
“I personally have met villagers who said they paid $400 to firemen” to save their houses, he said. The firefighters did not return the money when they couldn’t save the houses, he added.