Police Warn Firefighters About Taking Bribes

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.

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