Senior officials from the Ministry of Interior have urged the Battambang Provincial Administration’s joint force to more effectively implement the Safe Village-Commune policy, aiming to reduce crime, with a particular focus on curbing local drug trafficking and use.

Sok Phal, ministry secretary of state and chairman of the policy’s working group, made the call during a meeting to review and enhance the policy’s implementation, at the provincial hall on December 20. 

The forum also included governor Sok Lou, provincial council chairman Uy Ry, various departmental heads and numerous officials under the provincial administration.

During the meeting, Phal called on the provincial joint force to implement the policy more effectively, aligning with the government’s vision. 

He said the primary focus for 2024 should be on reducing and eliminating drug trafficking and use within the community.

“This work is identified by the interior ministry, the National Authority for Combating Drugs [NACD] and other relevant authorities to ensure a peaceful and safe social environment with the promotion of good local order, beauty and hygiene, contributing to the enhancement of the nation’s image, honour and dignity,” he stated.

Lou noted that the authorities’ efforts at all levels and across all departments are reflected in the successful implementation of the policy. 

He said the province had achieved commendable results in 2023, with 68 out of 103 locations in the province ranking as communes with first-tier safety, 34 as second-tier and only one ranked as third-tier.

“Thanks to the efforts of local authorities and competent forces at all levels, the crime rate has been reduced by 73 per cent. Combined with the crackdown operation, we have achieved up to 94 per cent of our targets, leading to the provincial administration’s proud results for 2023,” he stated.

He added that officers at administrative police stations, crucial in managing security, public order and safety at the local level, have led and reinforced the village security guards. 

The efforts have increased active participation in maintaining local security and order, especially in preparing to intervene and rescue people in disasters or other accidents promptly.

Am Sam Ath, operations director for rights group LICADHO, noted that the policy is an effective approach for ensuring harmony, security, safety and a good environment for local people. 

However, he pointed out that the actual practices of some local officials do not yet align with the policy, noting that issues such as drug cases spreading to rural areas, gambling and theft are still prevalent.

“Therefore, for the safe village-commune policy to be effective, it is essential that local officials fully participate in its implementation, along with the involvement and confidence of the local people,” he said.