Amid an ongoing spate of gun crime nationwide, military police commander Sao Sokha has threatened that officials who sign off on weapons for subordinates will face jail time if those firearms are subsequently involved in illegal activities.
Addressing senior military officials in Phnom Penh on Monday, Sokha took aim at those requesting weapons for security force members not on official assignments.
“I want to ask you to use the legal measures regarding the use of weapons,” he said. “If we can’t control weapons, we can’t control insecurity and then insecurity will take place,” he added.
Sokha went on to threaten to investigate and prosecute any officials who signed out weapons later involved in crime.
Earlier this month, Interior Minister Sar Kheng had pointed a finger at a “loosening” of gun control, while Thun Samorn, director of the ministry’s department of weapons, admitted some ministers had as many as three guns, the purpose of which the ministry could not explain.
San Chey, of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, said that much stricter reforms were needed to prevent off-duty incidents involving members of the armed services.
“We have seen there are still armed forces using weapons to shoot innocent people,” he said. “They can use their connection to power to shoot people freely.”
Sokha’s Monday directive came on the heels of recent comments he made on another abuse of power that’s made headlines in the past year: the illegal use of RCAF licence plates.
At a meeting last week, Sokha called on security officials to be tougher on forged plates he said were all too common, saying they should impound the vehicles, which would then be claimed as state property.
A driver for a foreign businessman in Phnom Penh, whose vehicle sported a RCAF number plate, yesterday told a Post reporter that despite neither he nor his boss being a member of RCAF, his plate was legit.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he claimed he had purchased it from a source at the Defence Ministry.
“In our country, when police see we drive a car with RCAF licence plates, they show respect and do not want to get tough,” he said.
Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said he had not heard of any cases of non-military personnel purchasing plates from the Defence Ministry and reiterated Sokha’s stance that cars bearing RCAF plates would be checked to determined if they were fake.