Banks and MFIs can employ armed police: Ministry

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An armed policeman guards a jewellery shop in Phnom Penh. KT/Mom Sophon

Financial institutions may employ armed guards at their premises, but, to do so, they must first submit a request at the Ministry of Interior, according to a ministry announcement released last week.

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If the ministry accepts the request, it will provide the petitioner with armed policemen, the statement said.

The ministry’s statement follows controversy created by an announcement from the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) in July asking all financial institutions to refrain from using armed security guards, arguing they are not needed since the country is now peaceful and stable.

“In principle, if banks or microfinance institutions want armed police stationed at their premises, they can submit a request with our ministry. We will review the application and make a decision,” Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak told Khmer Times yesterday.

Gen Sopheak said that NBC released its statement in July without consulting first with the Ministry of Interior, which, he said, is the institution responsible for security matters. “NBC’s expertise is on the financial sector. The management of national security should be left to us,” he said.

A month after the Central Bank’s announcement, a group of five masked men armed with guns and body armour robbed an RHB Indochina bank branch in broad daylight in the capital’s Chamkar Mon district. They successfully made off with $100,000.

The national police is on the case, but the robbers are still at large.

The heist has sparked talk among bankers and industry insiders over the security situation at financial institutions across the country.

Chea Phallarin, CEO of Amret Microfinance Institution, told Khmer Times last month that the robbery in July kindled fears over the security situation in bank branches across the nation.

“We are trying not to show our concerns to the public, as to not appear weak. What the robbery shows is that all banks need to work hard to ensure their internal security is solid,” Mr Phallarin said.

Last Thursday, when asked whether financial institutions were allowed to employ armed guards or policemen to protect their properties, Chea Serey, director general of NBC, declined to comment on the matter.

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