Civilian and police officials at the Interior Ministry have been ordered to seek permission before traveling outside Phnom Penh as part of security preparations for the July 27 general election, according to a ministry document.
The order, issued by co-Interior Ministers Sar Kheng and You Hockry last Thursday, also applies to security officials traveling outside the capital on days off or during vacation time.
“From now on, the Ministry of Interior has important and immediate work that relates especially to protecting security and safety for the third mandate parliamentary elections,” the document said.
“Officials, civilian and police, under the Ministry of Interior that rank from deputy director of departments upward, first have to ask permission from the ministry leaders before going far from Phnom Penh—even on their days off,” the document said.
Director General of National Police Hok Lundy said Wednesday the order was likely issued to increase the effectiveness of the police force.
On Tuesday, Hok Lundy also unveiled a controversial plan to stage pre-election protest suppression exercises by hundreds of police and military police officers on the streets of Phnom Penh.
Scheduled for early March, the maneuvers are designed to show Cambodians and the international community how well prepared the security forces are for trouble-making protests as the election approaches, Hok Lundy said.
Despite the growing security preparations, and the recent killing of senior Funcinpec adviser Om Radsady, Hok Lundy reiterated Prime Minister Hun Sen’s assessment that the political situation in Cambodia is calm.
“The situation is not considered a serious one leading to the announcement of a state of emergency,” said Hok Lundy, noting that Cambodia is not faced with major problems such as bank robberies or airplane hijackings that occur in other parts of the world.
However, opposition party members said Tuesday that it is only the CPP-led government that is talking up demonstrations and security scares ahead of the election, and next month’s exercises are a thinly veiled means of pre-election intimidation.
CPP security chiefs have also characterized the exercises as an unabashed show of strength by Hok Lundy.
“We do whatever to strengthen the general security. But it is also a show of muscle to scare the demonstrators. I feel concerned by the exercises because the police and military police will scare the city people,” an unnamed security official said Wednesday.