A police commissioner in Cambodia has been accused of corruption by 28 of his subordinates, a signed letter by the accusers obtained by RFA revealed.
In the letter, the 28 officers, representing themselves and more than 100 more colleagues who remained anonymous, accused Koeng Khorn, the commissioner of police in the southeastern province of Svay Rieng, of cutting their monthly salaries and using the money to donate to candidates from Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) in upcoming local elections.
The letter said that salaries were slashed between 200,000 riel (U.S. $50) to 4,000,000 riel ($1,000), depending on the rank of the officer.
The officers urged the minister of interior to investigate the commissioner and his associates, who they said were corrupt.
RFA attempted to contact Commissioner Koeng Khorn by telephone for comment, but he did not answer.
The letter also accused him of ordering his deputy and two lieutenants to forcibly collect the thumbprints of the subordinate officers on documents that showed they agreed to the monetary donations and waived their right to protest. It finally asked National Police Commissioner Net Savoeun and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng to fire Koeng Khorn and seek his replacement.
A Svay Rieng police officer told RFA’s Khmer Service on condition of anonymity that the ongoing corruption, partisanship and harassment of lower-ranking officers will negatively affect the department and its ability to maintain order.
He said that during the commissioner’s more than 10-year tenure a host of irregularities have surfaced, including nepotism in hiring practices and bribery in exchange for promotions. The commissioner also pushed back the year in which the officers could retire with full benefits.
National Police spokesman Chhay Kimkhoeun could also not be reached for comment.
Sok Eysan, spokesman for the CPP, said that the ruling party has no policy for cutting the salaries of civil servants to increase political donations. If police were required to cut their salaries in this case, it is an effort to discredit the CPP, he said.
Donating money to a political party must be voluntary and coercion to donate is illegal, Soeng Karuna, spokesman for the local Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, told RFA.
He said the Ministry of Interior and the government should investigate the officers’ claims.
“After a proper investigation is revealed, a clear action should be taken against individuals, who commit wrongdoing regardless of their roles. Legal action such as administrative penalties or a criminal punishment must be taken accordingly,” he said.
Police in Svay Rieng previously wrote two letters complaining about Commissioner Koeng Khorn.
In 2019, 57 anonymous officers said he accumulated tens of millions of dollars by corrupt means. But Koeng Khorn was never charged on any of the crimes alleged in that letter.
National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun at that time said three officers investigated the case and found no wrongdoing. He said the allegations were baseless.
In 2020, now hundreds of Svay Rieng police wrote a second anonymous letter accusing the commissioner of sending relatives to the border to collect money from tens of thousands of Vietnamese, who were allowed to enter Cambodia for one hundred thousand dong or about $5 each.
Meanwhile, a court in the capital Phnom Penh Monday ordered into custody Duong Gniep, described in Cambodian media as the country’s deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Interior, who recently publicly criticized the judges of the court for attempting to take a bribe from him.
Duong Gniep is charged with defrauding Taiwanese business partners of millions of dollars in a fake real estate sale.
On Feb. 7, he posted a video on Facebook in front of the Prey Sar Prison saying that he was ready to enter the prison after two judges of Phnom Penh tried to coerce him into giving them money to rule in his favor in his fraud case.
In the video, Duong Ngiep claims that the judge turned his case “black” — that is, they extorted money from him. Duong Ngiep did not reveal how much money he paid to the judges, but said that they kept asking him to appear before them and he had to pay them each time.
He said he appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials to help but was ignored.
Duong Ngiep also said that he regretted supporting the CPP in the past as they did not help him out in the end.
One day before his arrest, Gniep, who also holds honorable title Okhna (Duke in English), had written a letter of apology to the Phnom Penh court chief for questioning the honor of the court chief. He said the pressure of the court case contributed to his distress and confusion.
Speaking to RFA during a live interview Monday, the President of Cambodia’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, Morm Sitha, said that the government should investigate Duong Ngiep’s allegations.
“If the courts are not independent, it means that everything is missing from human rights and democracy. Investors would not come to invest in Cambodia if the court is corrupt,” she said.
Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Eugene Whong.