Policing the Police: New Unit Assigned to Traffic Cops

Phnom Penh’s traffic police officers, whose reputation for bribe taking is renowned, will soon be monitored by a new mobile police unit to ensure they uphold the law, the Ministry of Interior said.

The Special Team Monitoring Traffic Law Enforcement will ensure that traffic police are not setting up “anarchic” checkpoints; are at their posts; are documenting traffic accidents; are correctly implementing the law; and are not damaging the reputation or honor of the national police, the ministry said in a statement dated February 7.

“This team has the duty to monitor and prevent actions of traffic police officers in the city who violate the law,” the ministry said.

The statement provides few details other than identifying Colonel Heng Chantheary, Phnom Penh’s deputy police chief and former chief of the city’s traffic police, as heading up the new unit. Col. Chantheary declined to comment on his new job Monday.

Asked to comment on police policing the police, Major General Him Yan, director of the Ministry of Interior’s public order department, said that the new team would ensure the traffic police do their jobs.

“This special team will be pushed to implement the traffic law, and will push [traffic police officers] to do good work,” he said. The statement does not specify how traffic police officers will be punished if they fall afoul of the monitoring unit.

Phnom Penh Traffic Police Chief Chev Hak could not be reached for comment.

However, a senior traffic police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media, said his colleagues were forced to take bribes to make ends meet.

“They should not restrict them before giving them more money,” the police official said.

“How much will the salary be of the members of the [mobile] team? They will still need money, so they will take money again and again,” the officer said.

“I presume these people cannot fix anything.”

Traffic police officers stationed along Norodom Boulevard on Monday said that they were not worried because they follow the law at all times anyway.

“I heard from my superior that the team was [created], but not yet implemented. I don’t mind this team monitoring traffic police officers because this will push officers to implement the law,” an officer said.

An official at Transparency International (TI) Cambodia, which monitors corruption, said the monitoring team could work, but its success depends more on how it will operate.

“If [those on the team are] secretly assigned, it may have more effect in the sense of scaring other police not to commit corruption or take bribes,” said TI Cambodia Executive Director Preap Kol.

“If [members of the mobile team] are publicly identified, it won’t work because they will find a way to share the money,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Phann Ana)

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