Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has ordered the security force’s top brass to cease providing officers to guard karaoke bars and other entertainment venues because the patrons of such establishments often took drugs.
He also said the drivers of official vehicles using their sirens for private business affected the nation’s dignity and prestige.
“I would like to appeal to our security forces, civil servants, soldiers, police and military police . . . commanders, stop assigning your subordinates to guard karaoke bars because people who go to them take drugs."
“If we guard such places, it complicates enforcing [the law at them] because this is not in line with the regulations. Guarding places where drugs are used is a serious mistake,” Sar Kheng said at the swearing-in ceremony for newly elected Phnom Penh municipal councillors on Wednesday.
Sar Kheng said the National Police were preparing a directive on the matter to be issued soon.
He said in addition to providing security forces to stand by at private institutions, there had also been cases in which the drivers of official vehicles had taken the wealthy from Phnom Penh International Airport and used their sirens while doing so.
He said this disrupted the work of other police forces and authorities.
“This is wrong, a huge mistake, and it is not allowed. I am looking for further information. On May 27, there were parties using two chartered flights. One was for an official delegation, and the other was for a rich businessman."
“But our police led the businessman away from the airport with sirens like he was a head of state, president or prime minister. It will make people think that this is how it works in Cambodia and this is a problem. So this must not be allowed to happen. We must join hands to increase the prestige and dignity of our nation,” Sar Kheng said.
He said state authorities must not behave like this because it would only spark criticism that “the armed forces have nothing better to do but guard casinos”.
Casinos and private businesses must use their own guards or hire them from security companies, he said.
“If we use our security forces, with state guns and state salaries, to protect the safety of drug users, this is doubly wrong,” Sar Kheng said.
General Chhay Kim Khoeun said on Wednesday that the National Police were preparing a directive on the issue.
San Chey, the executive director of NGO the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the presence of police and soldiers at private institutions did not look good and damaged the reputation of the security forces.
It suggested that they were being used incorrectly, he said.
He said the public would believe that having armed security forces at private institutions came from collusion between the commanders and owners of such establishments and lessen their faith in the authorities.
“If armed security forces guard private institutions, it will make that establishment feel better protected because their guards would have guns while private security guards only have electric batons."
“These have not deterred criminals from attempting to rob banks, for example. This will affect public trust in the authorities with regard to security,” he said.
He said the use of armed security forces occurred not only at karaoke bars, nightclubs and restaurants but also at places at the centre of land disputes.
“It is clear this problem is damaging the honour and dignity of the Cambodian security forces,” Chey said.
In February, authorities raided the Rock Entertainment Centre, detaining more than 300 people and seizing almost 50kg of drugs. The raid saw Kith Theang, the club’s owner, arrested and sent to court on charges of involvement with illegal drugs.
The following month, authorities raided the Miami Night Club, holding 50 people and confiscating more than 10kg of illicit substances and equipment for the production and consumption of drugs.
The nightclub’s owner, Sreng Vireak, and six members of staff were sent to court on illegal drugs charges.
And in the latest incident on Saturday, some 400 people including around 130 foreigners were arrested after failing drugs tests at the Luxurious nightclub in the capital’s Daun Penh district. Various drug-related equipment and 162.7g of drugs were seized during the raid.