The chief of police in Preah Sihanouk province has been removed from his position and will be replaced by Chuon Narin, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh municipal force, according to the Interior Ministry.
“Yes, I can confirm. Excellency Sar Kheng signed a prakas yesterday evening to remove Seang Kosal and replace [him] with Chuon Narin,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Thursday.
“Chuon Narin will start very soon—tomorrow or the next day.”
In a speech Wednesday, Mr. Kheng, the interior minister, blasted Brigadier General Kosal for “sleeping” while violent criminals ran riot in one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, pointing to the violent March 19 robbery of two expatriates on Koh Rong island as the latest example of the police chief’s incompetence.
Mr. Kheng also lamented the fact that it took a special delegation of high-ranking police officials from the Interior Ministry to make arrests over the attack and called the local force “weak.”
On Thursday, General Sopheak, the spokesman, said that the public scolding of Brig. Gen. Kosal was explanation enough for his removal.
“From what [Mr. Kheng] said yesterday, you can imagine,” Gen. Sopheak said. “You can follow the story.”
Sihanoukville has been rocked in recent months by a spike in violent crimes committed by and against foreigners, including brawls, stabbings and a drive-by shooting.
A high-profile feud between powerful Russian businessmen Nikolai Doroshenko—a longtime resident of the seaside city jailed last week on fraud charges—and Sergei Polonsky—a former billionaire wanted in his home country on serious embezzlement charges —has also escalated lately.
Mr. Doroshenko and his son have repeatedly accused Mr. Polonsky of attempting to kill members of their family, most recently when the engine bay of a Range Rover exploded while parked outside their home last month. Mr. Polonsky has denied the accusations, and claims his rival is guilty of more than a dozen crimes against him.
In mid-March, the National Police completed a draft plan to protect foreign nationals and investors in Cambodia, with commissioner Neth Savoeun saying that any “foreign mafia” operating in the country would be hunted down and prosecuted.
On Thursday, Gen. Sopheak said that Brigadier General Narin’s track record showed he was the right man to bring Sihanoukville back under control.
“Chuon Narin is the deputy commissioner of Phnom Penh Municipal Police and heads the criminal investigation [unit]. He is an experienced, senior police officer and has shown that he can control the city,” Gen. Sopheak said.
Contacted shortly after his transfer made news Thursday morning, Brig. Gen. Narin said that he would be officially instated Monday, and would take a hard line against criminals operating in the coastal province.
“The transfer ceremony will be held on April 6 in Preah Sihanouk province,” he said.
“This is a big responsibility for me,” he added. “Everything that is illegal, we will crack down and make arrests.”
In his speech Wednesday, Mr. Kheng also said that provincial governors must take responsibility for law and order in their jurisdictions, questioning the competence of Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Chhit Sokhon.
Contacted Thursday, Mr. Sokhon conceded that he and Brig. Gen. Kosal had failed in their duties.
“He and I both made mistakes,” Mr. Sokhon said. “We did not govern properly.”
“I do not know whether they will remove me or not, that depends on evaluation from higher levels.”
As for Brig. Gen. Kosal, who could not be reached Thursday, Gen. Sopheak said that he would be transferred to a new role in Phnom Penh.
“He will become deputy chief of a department at the Ministry of Interior,” he said. “But I don’t know which department.”