Interior Minister Sar Kheng has dismissed as “baseless” a complaint by the opposition party that accuses municipal authorities of using “illegal security forces”, while at the same time threatening to investigate whether the CNRP’s own security arrangements are lawful.
In a letter dated November 17, the deputy prime minister said the use of “people’s defence forces” for the “protection of law and public order” was not prohibited by any legislation, adding such groups did not act as police officers, but provided an “intervention force” to help authorities maintain security.
Kheng’s letter, addressed to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, was a response to a complaint by Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Mu Sochua.
Sochua, who was unreachable yesterday, had criticised the use of “illegal security forces” employed by municipal authorities to crackdown on protesters.
The lawmaker singled out the notoriously violent Daun Penh district security guards, whose head, Cheam Ratha, she said should be punished for a protest crackdown on October 10 in which five people were injured.
However, far from reprimanding the Daun Penh guards, often employed to confront peaceful protests, Kheng said he would instead “examine” the opposition’s security personnel and “issue guidance” if they did not comply with legal standards.
“On the contrary and more seriously, this party has organised many hundreds of security forces in its party, with uniforms and radios . . . without permission from the authorities,” Kheng wrote. “[The party has also] conducted many anarchic activities, including clashes with legal forces of the government.”
The CNRP employs security guards at its Phnom Penh headquarters, where opposition leader Kem Sokha is holed up to avoid arrest.
Responding yesterday, CNRP lawmaker Keo Phirum said that their security broke no laws.
“They don’t carry arms or any weapons and they never harm the public or anyone,” Phirum said, adding they were there for a “good reason”.
“We are just trying to protect our leader.”